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Calls growing louder by the day for horse register

DECEMBER 12 2019 - 10:30AM

Charlie Elias

CALL FOR REGISTER: Debbie Barber (centre) with former racehorse Whitestone now in her care, has joined forces with Mark and Juliana Waugh in support of a horse register.

Two strong voices from Port Stephens and Newcastle have joined forces in campaigning for a national horse traceability register to ensure the animal's welfare, safety and biosecurity.

Anna Bay's Debbie Barber, who two years ago established the not-for-profit Hunter Horse Haven Inc. in Port Stephens, has been rescuing horses for more than 40 years and is a fierce advocate for their welfare.

She believes a register would rid the industry of the "neglect and abandonment" she sees daily.

Juliana and Mark Waugh, from New Lambton Heights, lost their 18-year-old daughter Sarah in March of 2009 at Dubbo while taking part in a NSW TAFE course for inexperienced riders.

A coronial inquest into the death - the first of its kind ever held in NSW - found that she was riding a recently-retired racehorse supplied to TAFE.

"In NSW owners have to register their dogs, cats, pigs, cattle, goats and most other animals, but not horses. It is a ridiculous situation and as the ABC 7.30 investigation exposed there are serious problems as far as welfare, neglect and traceability is concerned," the couple said.

While they come from completely different backgrounds and circumstances, the two parties have found common ground on the issue of a register for all horses, one of 18 recommendations to be reached following a six-month Senate inquiry.

In its summary, the Senate committee concluded that there was overwhelming support across the horse industry for a register in some form, the primary rationale being "as a biosecurity function".

This, say Barber and the Waughs, is to ensure a responsible and collaborative approach to any health outbreaks, such as the devastating equine flu epidemic which hit NSW in 2007.

Barber has 29 horses in her care, "the vast majority being intercepted from slaughter or having been neglected from properties" around the Hunter.

"A horse register would allow for responsible horse ownership, to trace the horse once it leaves these premises, which in turn makes it easier for us to re-home," said Barber.

"In 2005 a large percentage of Australian horse slaughter facilities failed humane welfare standards during a compliance audit by authorities, and as witnessed on the 7.30 report nothing has changed. Hopefully, now that the industry has unified, some positive change will be implemented."

A register will also allow veterinarians to check for vaccinations, past history and general health checks.

The Waughs say a register would also stop illegal practices and situations such as the one which cost them the life of daughter Sarah.

"Horse traceability is important, so is horse welfare and human safety."


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