India starving horses rescued from Aligarh stud farm

INDIA: An animal rights group in India has rescued 49 starving horses from a breeding farm in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Six of the horses, rescued from Aligarh town last week, have already died and four are doing "very poorly", a spokesman for Frendicoes told the BBC.

The remaining horses will need constant care for months if they are to survive.

The farm owner is untraceable. Four staff who were at the farm said they had not been paid for a year.

They said most of the other workers had left and that the farm was used for breeding race horses, adding that most of the animals were thoroughbreds.

Emaciated, wounded

"The horses were kept in a very poor condition for a long time because all the animals are stunted," Geeta Seshamani, vice-president of the Delhi-based non-governmental organisation Frendicoles, told the BBC.

The group sent a 16-member rescue team, including two vets, to Aligarh last week after receiving a tip-off and Ms Seshamani says the sight that greeted them was "dire".

The animals were emaciated with wounds on their bodies and many could not even stand due to weakness and dehydration.

"Every single animal was down. We had to rehydrate them and after 24 hours we could load them onto two vehicles and drive them to Delhi. Five of them were in recumbency, we knew they won't pull through, but we didn't have the heart to leave them there. Another one later died from extreme dehydration."

Ms Seshamani said the staff at the farm told the rescue team that the animals had been abandoned for at least "several months".

"They said initially the horses ate the straw on which they stood, then they started eating their own dung, but for the past few weeks, they had nothing to eat."

The animal rights group which rescued the animals says many of them have begun to respond to treatment and some of them can now stand without stumbling.

Ms Seshamani, who runs a mobile equine clinic, says it's going to be a "long haul" for the remaining horses.

"They will require continuous care, for at least three to six months, to get better. It is remarkable that they have survived."

At present, the horses are kept at the Frendicoes farm in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon where they are being looked after, and Ms Seshamani says since Tuesday many of the animals have begun to respond.

"Many of them seem to have come to life. They can now walk without stumbling, they are nibbling at the grass we are providing them."

India's racing community and horse lovers have pitched in with help but the NGO says it requires "lots of support".

"We need more fund, we need to buy more food for them, rent a bigger piece of land so that they can get some exercise," Ms Seshamani says.