EARLY indications from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine point to increased engagement with the State’s second annual Equine Census which closed on December 16th last.

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice (Ind) tabled a Dail question recently to Minister Charlie McConalogue TD (FF), asking for a breakdown of the 2021 equine census figures.

In response, Minister McConalogue said: “The 2021 equine census was the first such census undertaken by my Department. It was was initiated to comply with the EU requirement for each Member States to record the habitual residence of each equine resident in the State, on its central equine database.

“The undertaking of an equine census on an annual basis confirms the Department’s commitment to the Programme for Government objective to prioritise equine welfare through improved traceability.

“This linking of horses to their habitual residence will allow my Department to manage animal and public health concerns as well as lost or straying horses with greater ease, by recording more current details of the responsible keeper.

“In 2021, responses were received from some 12,500 registered keepers who recorded over 58,000 equines kept on census night. Since last year, the Department has made a number of improvements to the online census portal in an effort to improve keeper experience and to increase 2022 response rates.

“In this regard, keepers who responded to the census in 2021 are provided with the option of using their 2021 data as a base for completing their 2022 census. Individual passport numbers can be deleted or added, as necessary.

“This removes the requirement for the physical entry of each 15-digit identification number, where the equines in question continue to reside on the holding.

“The 2022 equine census took place on Wednesday 30th November. Early indications are that online engagement has increased compared to the position at the same time in 2021,” added Minister McConalogue.