The plight of ponies abandoned on wasteground in Portrush caused concern among animal lovers yesterday after a notice warned that they could be destroyed if they were not claimed within two weeks.
The animals, a mare and young foal, were left on the rubble and weed-strewn former catering college site on Ballywillan Road, which is owned by Ulster University.
After their situation was highlighted on social media - alongside a photo of the abandonment notice posted at the site by the university - the owner of the animals came forward to reclaim them.
However, the founder of Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary near Antrim said the animals' plight was typical of the continuing problem of discarded horses in Northern Ireland.
Lyn Friel warned that horses and ponies which were not suitable for riding were slipping through the cracks.
"The abandonment of horses and ponies in Northern Ireland has been on the go for a long time," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "When we previously had a council contract, we took in 167 abandoned horses and we are still paying off the costs of that now, so we have to be careful regarding the number of horses we take in."
Referring to the Portrush ponies, she added: "These small ponies look to be in a good enough condition overall, but where they were left was unsuitable.
"The police don't get involved in cases like this unless the horses are on the road, and the council don't get involved unless there is a welfare issue. I believe that money should be made available by the council or by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to care for horses in this type of situation.
"Horses and ponies abandoned on such sites are at risk as they can be left there indefinitely, and can fall into the wrong hands.
"Sometimes abandoned horses are sold at auction for next to nothing, and we would have concerns for their welfare. People usually only want horses that can provide entertainment for them or are of value to them - ponies for the children or horses that they can hack out."
The Ulster University said: "The horses are privately owned and were placed on university land without permission. Based on advice from the PSNI and the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, and with concerns for animal welfare, the university placed an abandonment notice on the site as a first step in contacting the owner, who has since confirmed they will return to the site and remove the horses."