Irresponsible pony and trap racers have been accused of endangering the lives of motorists and pedestrians in Coalisland.
The latest distressing incident, in which a pony was killed in a road accident and then dumped at the side of the Annaghmore Road last week, has prompted warning calls from politicians and a motorist who was involved in a crash with one of the racing ponies.
The motorist revealed that she had sustained almost £1,000 worth of damage to her car after a pony and carriage bolted towards her.
Sinn Fein representative Linda Dillon has also raised concerns about the welfare of horses kept by the travelling community and other horse-owners in the Coalisland area.
“We are calling on the local traveller community as well as the wider population to exercise care and caution while taking their animals on public roads, and to ensure their proper welfare and upkeep.
“We are not suggesting that people should give up a tradition that is part of their culture, only that they should consider the safety of other road users and take more responsibility for their animals and accidents when they occur.”
The Coalisland election candidate is organising an official meeting with Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to look at the resourcing of animal welfare officers.
“We believe there are animal welfare issues with some of the horses that are being kept in Coalisland, and we are calling upon welfare laws to be enforced.
“This is a problem that needs to be tackled by the proper agencies. It is not illegal to go on the road with a pony and trap, but we recognise that the issue is becoming a problem and could lead to serious accidents or worse in the Coalisland area.
“There is also a problem in identifying a horse once an accident has taken place and this is another issue we will be exploring.”
The Coalisland motorist warned that a fatality will occur unless action is taken.
“This doesn’t happen in other towns where your have 16 and 17 year-olds tearing about the open roads with an almost out of control horse and trap, and terrorising other road-users”, she said.
“You have mothers out pushing prams and school children using the pavements; any of them could be seriously injured or worse if the drivers lose control of the horses. To make matters worse, many of the horses are clearly kept in poor conditions and half-starved, making them more prone to accidents.”