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New powers come into force to deal with fly-grazing horses

PUBLISHED: 10:41 27 May 2015 | UPDATED: 10:41 27 May 2015

Horses at dusk. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Horses at dusk. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Farmers and landowners have been given greater powers to deal with the problem of illegally grazed or abandoned horses, after new legislation came into force on Tuesday.

The Control of Horses Act 2015 makes changes to the law which mean horse owners who “fly-graze” their animals on public and private land without permission can now be dealt with more swiftly.

Rural groups including the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), worked with animal welfare charities to drive the Private Members’ Bill through parliament following its introduction by York Outer MP Julian Sturdy in 2014.

Under the previous Animals Act 1971 an abandoned horse could only be disposed of after 14 days through sale at market or public auction.

But now, fly-grazing horses have to be reported to police within 24 hours and, if no owner is identified in four working days, with the new law also extending the options for dealing with abandoned horses, to include private sale, gifting and rehoming to animal welfare charities.

Farming minister George Eustice said horses left to fly-graze can now be re-homed much more quickly, which would “encourage owners to pay proper attention to their animals’ welfare and ensure communities are no longer blighted by the illegal practice of fly-grazing.”

CLA east regional director Ben Underwood said: “We pressed for this new law so that farmers and landowners can act for swift resolution when faced with the problem of horses illegally abandoned on their land.

“Fly-grazed horses can damage land, crops and fencing, restrict space for livestock and cost money to provide for their welfare and safety. It has been very difficult, time consuming and expensive for landowners to deal with these situations but from today they can take swifter action to resolve the problem by, for example, re-homing the horses to charities or privately.”

As many as 3,000 horses are thought to be illegally fly-grazing across the country, and the NFU said the impacts on farmers and landowners could be “devastating”.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: “Fly-grazed horses threaten the livelihood of farmers, damage land, divert local authority resources and risk the safety of motorists when they escape on to roads. This new legislation will enable farmers and landowners to remove unwanted horses quickly and effectively while action will be less expensive to take.”

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