Welfare Concerns

If you are concerned about the welfare of a horse, pony or donkey, please call us on 07771 269700 and leave a message with as much information as possible including:

  • Your name and number
  • Nature of your concern
  • Location of concern (address and directions)
  • Details of animal(s) involved, and description for identification purposes

For loose horses on the road, dial 101 to inform the police giving the location.

Please read our FAQ before calling:

What constitutes a welfare concern?

A genuine welfare concern in the eyes of the law, is anything that contravenes section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This legislation places a duty of care onto people to ensure that they take all reasonable steps to ensure that the welfare needs of their animal are being met. They must provide for five welfare needs, which are:

  • The need for a suitable environment (i.e. stable, field, shelter, etc.)
  • The need for a suitable diet (i.e. grass, hay, feed, etc.)
  • The need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (i.e. not left in isolation, allowed to lay down, get up, and move freely)
  • The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (i.e. to be kept with their own kind, and not to put a horse in a stable or field with another who may cause it injury)
  • The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease

Although some living conditions may not be ideal, e.g. a horse in a muddy field, this does not mean that it is abandoned or neglected so long as it is suitably rugged, has shelter, hay, water, and is not ill or injured.

Often members of the public will say that they have been feeding and taking water to apparently abandoned horses, but in some cases where the animals have been brought to the attention of the RSPCA, this kindness is actually preventing them from taking action as technically, in the eyes of the law as it is, their needs are being met albeit by those caring people and not the owners. This is a fault in the law, and we would urge any member of the public to lobby the national charities and the Government to change the law, to enable all welfare agencies to intervene in cases where neglect or abuse are clearly evident, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Who can take action?

There are only two agencies who can legally remove an animal from premises or bring a welfare case to prosecution: the Police, and the Council. Not even the RSPCA has the power to seize an animal without a court order. We cannot legally remove an equine from premises without following the correct procedure.

Before an animal is removed, a report must first be given to its owner with advice and education on how to rectify the issue/s, which is usually given a timescale for compliance. If this is not followed, or the animal’s needs are still not being met, then action can be taken through a formal warning or in some cases, prosecution. It is often a time-consuming process, and frustrating for the welfare organisations involved, who are unable to take direct action to remove an animal immediately.

What about Fly-grazing?

Fly-grazing is where horses have been left on empty fields, open spaces, parks, greens, commons, etc. Such premises have often been illegally entered, for the purpose of obtaining free grazing for as long as they possibly can.

A new piece of legislation – the Control of Horses Act – was brought into effect in 2015 to deal with this issue more promptly. The Act allows landowners and Local Authorities to remove fly-grazing horses from the land immediately and take them to a place of safety.

The local Police must be notified within 24 hours that this has been done, and given full details, and if the owner of the horses can be identified then they must also be notified within the same time frame. A notice in a prescribed (legal) format under Section 7(c) must be clearly displayed on the premises for a period of 4 working days, upon expiry of which, if no contact by the owner or keeper has been made, then the landowner receives ownership and may decide what to do with the horse/s. Options include keeping them, selling or rehoming them privately, rehoming them to charities/welfare organisations, or in extreme circumstances as a last resort, having them humanely euthanized.

It is important to note though, that this process must be carried out by the landowner; we cannot do it on their behalf. We can work with landowners to ensure that it is carried out correctly and to help find a home for any seized horses either with us or another welfare organisation.

For horses loose on a public road, the Police have responsibility to remove them to a place of safety.

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