Sannat horse racing moved to 4pm after animal welfare concerns

A horse race due to take place in the scorching afternoon heat in Sannat has been postponed to a later date, after animal welfare concerns were raised with the local council.

Held each year as part of the Santa Margarita holiday celebration in Sannat, the animals were due to run down the village’s main thoroughfare at 1.30pm, despite Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina objecting to the time and suggesting that they be kept after 6:30 p.m. and ensure easy access to water for the animals.

The decision to stage a horse race in the afternoon heat also drew heavy criticism on Facebook, with local council posts about the event drawing near unanimous criticism.

Sannat Mayor Philip Vella said Malta weather Saturday afternoon that after consultation with the authorities, the council had decided to move the start of the race to 4 p.m.

“We have discussed the matter with VRD, Transport Malta and the police and it has been decided that the race will start at 4pm,” he said.

Plans to hold future races in the evening

Vella has also pledged to run future races in the evening, as advised by Bezzina.

“We want to take care of the animals and ensure that all animal welfare standards are met. We also take all this into consideration and next year we will plan to organize the races in the evening,” he said.

The mayor added that while the council heard people’s concerns, he wanted to make sure the horses were still going to have adequate shelter and access to water if the race had been held earlier.

“We have set up shelters as well as drinking water and shower stations for the horses, he continued.

“I understand that people may have had the impression that the horses are going to spend an afternoon in the sun. But the horse only really runs for a minute. After that they are taken to the shelter and watered down, there are people posted to make sure that happens.

“Even horse owners want to make sure there is a certain standard, after all, the better the horse is cared for, the more likely it is to win.”

Meteorologists predict a warm sunny day with a high of 33°C which looks like 36°C and a UV index of 10. Humidity should be above 80%. Horses that overheat run the risk of collapsing, convulsing and dying.

“Public pressure works”

Bezzina thanked the public who supported his recommendations for the race by speaking directly to the council and lobbying.

“Anything I recommend can be supported by authorities or ignored, but it’s the perfect example of how public pressure works,” she said.

“I don’t have the authority to implement my own recommendation, but public pressure may influence authorities to accept it.”

Regarding the changes to the race time, Bezzina said that while 6 p.m. would have been better, the 4 p.m. race start was much better than 1:30 p.m.

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