PRETORIA– The Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), General Solly Shoke, has ordered the relocation of 80 horses belonging to the military to a better facility in Rooiwal, north of here, after the horses were found starving by animal welfare inspectors at an army unit in Potchefstroom in North West Province,

Only forty horses will be left at the South African Army Specialised Infantry Capability (SAASIC) unit in Potchefstroom with the understanding that the facility will be adequate to cater for all these animals’ needs, the SANDF said in a statement here Monday.

The SANDF has also roped in the services of the Military Veterinary Institute (MVI) to help continuously assess the conditions under which these animals are kept and ensure that all conditions identified as harmful are addressed with the urgency they deserve, to enhance the health status of the animals.

With the help of the MVI, we have also enlisted extra personnel and veterinary physicians to help manage the animals and ensure that the highest standard of animal breeding behaviour is maintained by the SANDF, the statement added.

The SANDF confirmed that 25 of its horses were euthanized at the SAASIC unit last month “due to compromised health” after an inspection by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).

In 2013, the SANDF and NSPCA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which was formally signed in May 2016 but the SANDF has continually reneged on the agreement, particularly the SAASIC Unit, with regards to their responsibilities to adequately care for the animals in their control.

According to the NSPCA, the failure to secure suitably qualified personnel or adequate facilities, combined with a non-empathetic infrastructure that has repeatedly failed the animals in their care, has resulted in a complete breakdown in the welfare conditions afforded to the horses. The main herd, the NSPCA added, had no food, which left them to eat soil and their own faeces.

The SANDF can confirm that following the euthanization of 25 of its horses at South African Army Specialised Infantry Capability unit in Potchefstroom due to compromised health, it is currently taking remedial actions to alleviate the plight of the horses under its care as a sign of its commitment to prevent cruelty, promote the welfare and alleviation of animal suffering, the SANDF said.

The SAASIC was established in March 2011 with a number of horses to provide an equestrian capability for the SANDF, a function that includes border safety deployment and training purposes.