The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has revealed its annual rescue and cruelty figures, which showed it investigated 3,000 more complaints than in 2012.
Fewer people were convicted of animal cruelty or neglect, but 585 of total convictions involved equines – a 154% increase from 2011’s 230.
The animal charity highlighted concerns for equines two years ago and the figures indicate the crisis has continued to escalate.
David Bowles, head of external affairs at the RSPCA, said: “While we are heartened that the numbers of people convicted of cruelty have decreased, the fact we are investigating more and more complaints shows there is still a culture of cruelty out there.
“Nothing illustrates this like the massive increase in equine-related convictions. This is due mainly to irresponsible owners who have let their animals breed indiscriminately, together with an economic downturn, which has seen feed prices go up and horses going for just a few pounds at market.
“As a result, horses have been left to suffer without food and vet treatment.”
This year’s report contained a disturbing number of cases investigated by the RSPCA, including dogs being set on wild animals in a series of attacks, a Shar Pei that was kicked, punched and dragged along a pavement before it died, and a young mare found in a terrible emaciated condition with its dead foal lying nearby.
Figures also revealed dogs were still the animal most likely to be involved in cruelty cases, with 2,505 related convictions.
Mr Bowles added: “Although there have been fewer convictions relating to dogs, we are still rescuing more and more and the fact is the RSPCA takes in some of the most needy dogs – we don’t pick and choose by breed or by the desperate lives they’ve lived before they come to us.
“I think we should be proud that, despite taking in some very damaged animals, we rehomed an incredible 55,323 animals in 2013.”