Theft of horses, while maybe not on the increase in your area, is not going to disappear and wherever you are you run a risk of having your animals spirited away from you.
Taking steps to prevent theft of horses from happening, and taking steps to make it as easy as possible to recover the animal once stolen, should be a simple priority for any concerned horse owner.
One such owner, and veteran breeder, is Ros Nightingale who some years ago set up a Facebook group on which people can post details of their horses that have been stolen, and also details of horses that may have become “lost” and are found wandering about on roadsides and public ground.
The group operates countrywide and has been successful on many occasions of putting people in touch and aiding in the recovery of stolen animals.
How To Identify Your Horse
First, as a pre-emptive measure, take good photos of both sides of the horse, as well as from the front and back, showing clearly all white markings or any other identifying marks such as old scars, swollen legs, clipped ears (rural ID clips), eye injuries, etc. Keep these photos up-to-date.
Note whether the horses is a mare, gelding or stallion, and have details of its age calculable (teeth).
Branding or Marking Your Horse
The most visible form of indelible marking, is to brand your horses. While this is unpopular among many horse owners because of the disfigurement it causes, branding of horses is no different to marking of any other agricultural livestock.
Firstly, the owner must register with the National Dept of Agriculture which will issue a three digit mark which can then be assembled and applied by a registered animal marker either to the neck or the hindquarters by two methods, either hot branding or freeze branding.
Horses can also be tattooed, usually on the upper jaw, lower lip or left or right ear, from six months, while branding is permissible from twelve months.
Any person, including an auctioneer, agent or market master, who sells an animal, must, at the time of delivery of the animal, give the buyer a document of identification.
This has to state the date of the sale, and the full names and addresses of the receiver and seller. It must also state that the seller was the legal owner of the stock and so able to dispose of it.
The buyer must retain the document of identification obtained from the seller for one year.
You can download blank stock removal forms here and animal identification forms can be downloaded here. At SA Smallholder‘s resources page you will find additional information on animal identification as well.
Brand registration forms can be obtained from the Dept of Agriculture, extension offices, magistrate’s offices, vets, SAPS stock theft units or the Registrar of Animal Identification. There is a once-off registration fee. Post the form to the Registrar of Animal Identification, Private Bag X138, Pretoria 0001. The registration is placed on the National Register of Animal Identification System (AIS). You can read more on the process of marking livestock here.
An alternative to branding as a form of identification is microchipping, where a small capsule containing a data chip is injected under the skin of the animal, and from which details can be obtained thereafter using a hand-help microchip reader. For show animals where a visible brand mark may detract from its value or award-winning ability a microchip is preferable. But, it will only help if it can be read, meaning somebody needs to get close to the animal with a reader.
What To Do If Your Horse Is Stolen
- If your horse is lost or stolen, report it to your local SAPS Stock Theft Unit, as well as to the local SPCA and local municipal pound if there is one.
- Supply good photos of the horse with the report ~ this helps the SAPS find the horse rather than by description only.
- Also supply a copy of any ownership papers or registration papers if it is a breed registered horse and the exact location where the horse was kept.
- Check with your grooms or the people who work with the horse when the last time the horse was seen.
- Follow up all leads, be prepared to do a lot of checking and driving around.
- Check all surrounding farms and camps for the horse. Check all fences and gates.
- Check all ditches, dongas, dams, etc where a horse can potentially fall into.
- Rather do not leave halters on horses when you are not with them, ie when they are grazing.
- If your horse is recovered and is microchipped, take your own microchip reader with you to read the chip as the SAPS do not always have these.
- Take identifying photos with you to clearly show it is the correct horse.
- Take proof of ownership with you.
- Post details of your loss on social media groups so that the post can be shared far and wide.
Finally, be sure to re-post regularly and add any details that you have.
Most importantly, says Nightingale, do not give up.
Nightingale’s Facebook group is called LOST, STOLEN or FOUND – HORSES & PONIES IN SOUTH AFRICA, NAMIBA, Bots, etc.
This is part of a series on Equines. For more, click here.
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