IHP President, Richichi, stated: “Our most recent inspection was last December. We documented the presence of horses abandoned to wander the streets, to battle the icy cold, and in some cases to be torn to pieces by wolves.
We sincerely hope that the complaint recently lodged by a citizen of Montenero Val Cocchiara finally pushes the local authorities into action. We have made many official complaints about the appalling situation that the breeding programme of the Pentro horse has brought about. The generous public funding of the studs has led to animals being abandoned, not only putting at risk the safety of pedestrians and motorists, as witnessed by the official complaints of locals, but causing serious, often fatal, accidents involving the animals themselves.”
This was the comment contributed by Sonny Richichi, IHP President, during the ongoing discussion in Alto Molise, following the circulation of a documentary put together by some of the local residents of the area.
The reports of the situation date from 2016. We have reported the facts publically, and presented a detailed report to the Public Prosecutor of the State, many times. Last December we carried out an inspection of the Zittola Wetlands: we found the remains of horses ripped to pieces by wolves, horse left out untended all year round, without shelter and without any support, even in the winter months. There is also the risk of pollution of the soil, due to the excess of nitrates (caused by the faeces and urine of the animals).
Numerous reports and complaints over the years since 2016 have created a worrying picture: some residents in the area have reported illegalities in the management of many horses on the part of some breeders of the “Pentro”, a breed of horses known and ‘safeguarded’ by the Regione Molise.
In order to promote and protect this breed, the Pentro, the Regione Molise grants public funds annually to studs under the title of ‘agri-environmental measures’, to the tune of €500.00 per head per year. Furthermore, payments are also available for the “construction or reconstruction of shelters, fencing, paddocks and drinking troughs, pasture improvement, acquisition of technical equipment, and building projects”. Lastly, publicly owned grazing land can be used for certain months of the year.
We have established that the use of these pastures is highly questionable and likely to produce environmental damage, pollution, and animal abuse. Our conclusion is backed up by documentation gathered over the past five years, obtained from the Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Asrem, Regione Molise, WWF, and reports from laboratories specialising in water and soil analysis.
At Montenero Val Cocchiara, these animals are exposed to starvation, cold, and risk of attack by predators, and many dead animals have been discovered over time. Not only do some breeders ignore the limitation on grazing periods, they actually construct illegal barriers which close off public roads, in order to prevent the horses from coming up into the village from the Wetlands. The Regione Molise has frequently asked for the authorities to take down these closures (some made with barbed wire), but with no response. All this has been documented with video and photos over years. Already back in 2016, the Corpo Forestale dello Stato raised the issue that many of the structures put up were actually inadequate for animals, in some cases also being without proper manure disposal provision. This situation has not changed over the years and as a result the horses are left to fend for themselves, also in winter, resulting in deaths and dismemberment by wolves.
We carried out an inspection on 19 and 20 December 2021 and observed, photographed and filmed horses in the Zittola Wetlands, in a period when it was not permitted for them to be there, both day and night, and also roaming the streets of the Comune di Val Cocciara.
The following day, we asked for the intervention of the Carabinieri Forestali di Forli’ del Sannio, whose behaviour was nothing short of surreal, with the Commandante accusing us of false declarations, because in his opinion the horses were permitted to be there all year round (but without being able to refer us to any act or regulation to support his argument); he even warned us of the risks of making accusations without solid evidence. Two Asrem vets were called in and limited themselves to hearing out our complaint and report, without checking any of the animals at all, and saying they would report what we had said back to their offices. As far as we are aware, to date no intervention has been made, the animals spent the winter in those areas in unacceptable conditions, with snow and ice, without forage, without shelter, without due care, and illegally.
PHOTO GALLERY: evidence of our complaints (WARNING: This gallery contains graphic images that may be disturbing to viewers)
Molise, abused horses and a risk of pollution: IHP’s denunciation