RSPCA Victoria believes the short- and long-term welfare issues affecting brumbies in Barmah National Park are separate but should be dealt with similarly.
‘‘RSPCA Victoria has consistently recommended to Parks Victoria that an interim welfare management plan be implemented to manage horses and other species showing signs of starvation due to current dry conditions,’’ RSPCA Victoria chief executive officer Liz Walker said.
‘‘This plan should consider a proactive approach to managing the horses.’’
After a discussion with Parks Victoria before Christmas, Dr Walker said an interim animal welfare plan had been developed.
‘‘It is our understanding that Parks Victoria staff members are patrolling the park daily to monitor the condition of the horses with assistance from a team of local veterinarians,’’ Dr Walker said.
‘‘As of January 1, Parks Victoria has also employed a dedicated and experienced equine veterinarian to attend public call-outs and Parks Victoria patrols.’’
Parks Victoria confirmed this in a statement made late last year.
‘‘Parks Victoria staff are conducting patrols twice daily across the park, with support from a team of equine vets, as well as responding to public notifications of distressed horses,’’ the statement read.
‘‘These staff are trained and equipped to humanely euthanase horses in very poor condition on the spot.
‘‘To date, (December 28) we have euthanased 23 horses.’’
While an interim plan is welcomed, RSPCA Victoria has been advised that Parks Victoria is developing a long-term management plan for Barmah National Park, which will be subject to public consultation this year.
‘‘We believe having a long-term plan is vital to ensuring that management of introduced animals is justified, effective and humane,’’ Dr Walker said.
Despite the feeding of native or introduced animals not being supported under either legislation or parks regulations, Barmah Brumby Preservation Group president Murray Willaton said it was making a difference.
‘‘We’ve been feeding them for about 10 weeks and they have improved significantly,’’ Mr Willaton said.
‘‘They have improved out of sight. We are still finding a skinny one in bad condition now and again but we are dealing with that appropriately.’’
After all the work the group has put in, Mr Willaton said he would be angry if Parks Victoria started shooting the brumbies that had recovered.
‘‘We’ve worked long and hard on behalf of all Australians to save these brumbies,’’ he said.
‘‘It would be demoralising and disgusting if Parks Victoria went in and shot healthy brumbies.’’