Abandoned horses found dead and dying in Northern Ireland field
Animal welfare officers have launched an investigation after the bodies of three horses were found in a field in the Feeny area of Co Londonderry.
Six others believed to have been abandoned by their owner are being examined by vets and are said to be in a "horrific state".
One horse owner from the area said she felt "physically sick" after coming across the corpse of a horse.
Teresa McKenna from Draperstown said the scene she came across in the field on Glenedra Road was "heartbreaking and horrific".
She has called for the animal welfare authorities to be given "more teeth" to deal with neglectful owners.
"We have found three dead bodies so far on the land," said Teresa.
"They are lying in the field. I was physically sick when I saw them.
"One of the horses had only died in the last couple of days.
"It had actually dug its own grave.
"It looked like it had thrashed about for days, trying to get the strength to get up, that it had dug a hole for itself in the muck.
"The poor animal has suffered and had the most horrific death.
"I couldn't sleep last night thinking that there were more animals like that out there in those fields, maybe too weak to get up on their feet.
"I was horrified by what I saw.
"This is mountain land and it is very difficult terrain to navigate.
"It is a very inhospitable part of the world, on top of a mountain. There is no shelter here at all. It is cold.
"Whoever dumped them here knew that they would not be seen from the road and not notice if they were emaciated.
"My children and I came up here earlier with some feed and attracted six more horses down to us.
"They are in a horrific state. Some of them look like they are literally on their last legs."
She said it was not a new problem in the area and that animal welfare laws should be stricter to deter neglectful owners.
"Every year around May time these so called horse dealers are dumping animals on this mountain to 'fly graze'," she explained.
"Year after year the horses and ponies dumped here die or we have to go seeking help to rescue them.
"It's ridiculous that this is allowed to continue. Fly grazing is a massive problem in this country.
"It's where horse dealers just cut open a fence or open a gate, put their horses into forestry land and walk away.
"Something needs to be done.
"There needs to be stricter animal welfare laws.
"There needs to be more of a deterrent for people doing this. Animal welfare and police take it to prosecution level and it costs the taxpayer a fortune and all they get is a slap on the wrist.
"There is no jail time, there is no proper fine and there needs to be a stronger animal welfare act in this country, it needs to have more teeth.
"There are so many people who love their animals and would do absolutely anything for them.
"And you see this, total neglect, beautiful animals just discarded like trash. These animals have been left there to rot. They can't get out, they can't help themselves.
"It's horrifying to witness and I would say that one of the most barbaric ways for an animal to die is from starvation."
Causeway Coast and Glens Council said yesterday: "Our officers are aware of a report at Glenedra Road and our animal welfare officer is on site."
The PSNI said it was also on site at Glenedra Road after receiving a report of dead horses and that enquiries were ongoing.