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Death of Horses Not Caused by Negligence

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Death of Horses Not Caused by Negligence

Horses on the way to Lake Mývatn

Horses near Lake Mývatn, Northeast Iceland. Photo: Zoë Robert.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has completed its investigation into the drowning of 12 horses in Bessastaðatjörn pond outside Reykjavík late last year. Their death is not believed to have been the cause of negligence.

The horses were in a herd of 55 horses kept in a fenced-off area on Álftanes belonging to horse association Sóti. They had been released there on September 1, 2014, and were going to be rounded up the day they were found dead, on December 20, visir.is reports.

“According to the representatives of Sóti, the horses were checked up on at three-to-eight-day intervals over the grazing period in addition to their owners checking up on them every now and then. Before the rounding up on December 20, the horses had been checked up on on December 13 and 14, according to information from Sóti. Then all the horses were on the field and the persons checking up on them didn’t notice anything irregular,” MAST writes in the evaluation.

MAST’s investigators examined the condition of 14 other horses in the herd and concluded that there was nothing to indicate that they were lacking food, water or nourishment.

Blizzards had raged in the days before the horses drowned but usually Icelandic horses can withstand bad weather and accidents like these are very rare.

According to regulation no. 910/2014 on the welfare of horses, a natural shelter should be available to the horses in bad weather, which was the case on Sóti’s land on Álftanes. The same regulation states that horses should be checked up on at least once a week during poor weather conditions, which Sóti also fulfilled.

“It’s unclear what drove the horses onto the ice but it appears that dangerous conditions were created when the pond froze. The fragile ice was covered in snow, coupled with a fierce snowstorm at the darkest time of year. However, it doesn’t appear that the caretakers of the animals violated regulations on the welfare of horses,” MAST concludes.

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