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Horses: Animal Welfare

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 181112, tabled on 14 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he plans to take to reduce the number of horses being allowed by their owners to stray.

Answered on

23 April 2021

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, animal owners and keepers are under a legal duty of care for the animals for which they are responsible on a permanent or temporary basis. It is an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering or to fail to provide for its welfare. The 2006 Act is backed up by the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids which provides owners with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their equines, as required by the 2006 Act. That includes ensuring the animal has a suitable environment to live in and is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

The Control of Horses Act 2015 introduced more flexible options for the management of fly-grazing, straying or abandoned horses which present numerous difficulties for landowners, the public and the horses themselves. The 2015 Act allows landowners and occupiers to seize and, if necessary, remove horses unlawfully left on their land and take them immediately to a place of safety. In all cases, the person seizing the horse must notify the local police force within 24 hours of doing so, and if the horses' owners can be identified, the person must also notify them. If no owner can be identified within four working days, landowners, occupiers and local authorities may then decide what to do with the horses, including rehoming, either privately or via charities, or offering them for sale.

The Government considers that the relevant legislation and guidance in place provides the right safeguards and powers in respect of protecting equine welfare and addressing the issue of straying horses. We remain committed to working with enforcement agencies and other interested parties to ensure issues of horse abandonments or neglect are effectively addressed.