A horse sanctuary in Northern Ireland has warned that equine welfare has reached a crisis point, with thousands of strays being left to fend for themselves.
The Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Antrim is at the forefront of dealing with the problem of abandoned horses here.
And across Ireland it has been estimated there has been a 200% rise in the number of horses being mistreated since the recession.
It is believed the animals are now being left to starve to death because their owners can no longer afford to feed them.
Last week three horses were found dead and nearly 40 others were living in appalling conditions in a suspected cruelty case at a farm in Co Antrim.
Animal welfare experts now estimate that up to 20,000 horses are being left to fend for themselves across Ireland.
The animal welfare warning comes ahead of legislation due to be implemented next month which is aimed at preventing unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The new law will allow action to be taken to prevent unnecessary suffering, rather than having to wait until an animal is affected.
According to authorities, the main problem is overbreeding with people accumulating more horses than they can care for, especially during times of recession.