HARDWORKING staff at a sanctuary for neglected and abandoned horses and ponies has been inundated with more calls in the past month than ever before.

Staff and volunteers at the Pitsea-based Essex Horse and Pony Protection Society have been run off their feet as the demand for their help has increased.

The charity cares for cruelly-treated and abandoned horses and ponies across south Essex and in the last four weeks, its staff have been pushed to the limit.

Sue Allery, manager, said her “dedicated” and “brilliant” team have been working 12-hours a day and have only had one day off each over the Christmas period.

“They carry on and slog on,” she said.

Mrs Allery puts the demand down to a slump in the market for selling horses and said because breeding is not monitored in any way, more and more animals are being cared for at the centre, in Pitsea Hall Lane.

She added: “People go off and forget about them and they are left to suffer.

“If they can’t look after them, why have them? It just makes me sick. Breeding needs to be monitored and restricted.

“What really hurts is we are trying to do our best, but we do have to work within the law.”

Charitable donations have been falling nationally due to the recession, but Mrs Allery said there are now more cases than ever for her team to deal with, and there is less money to pay for things such as feed and specialist vet treatment.

“We can’t do it on a shoestring,” she said.

“If people make donations and help then we can do more.

“We and other animal welfare centres all get a lot of support, but a lot of the time you get criticised, the expectations of people are too high.

“We can only work within the law and within our resources.”

To make a donation or to volunteer contact the centre on 01268 584603.