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20th April 2015

New legislation for Control of Horses

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The Control of Horses Act (CHA) 2015 comes into force on 26 May 2015. The CHA 2015 amends the Animals Act (AA) 1971 and is designed to enable local authorities and private landowners and occupiers to deal more effectively with fly-grazing horses.

‘Fly-grazing’ is the practice of deliberately leaving horses to graze on land without the landowner’s permission. It is estimated that some 3,000 horses are wrongly put to graze on property where the owner of the horse has no right to do so. The practice causes welfare problems for horses, damage to crops and fencing, loss of use of land and risks to the public. Instances of fly-grazing have increased dramatically over the past few years, and the absence of a low cost legal remedy has been a source of concern for landowners.

The new legislation has therefore been welcomed by animal welfare charities and landowners alike. The key amendments under the CHA 2015 are:

  • It gives local authorities in England a power to detain horses which are in any public place which the authority has reasonable grounds for believing have been put there without lawful authority. Public places includes and common land, town or village greens and any highway.
  • It gives freeholders and occupiers of land in England a power to detain horses which are on their land without lawful authority.
  • It introduces a new procedure for the detention or disposal of horses. Horses can now be disposed of 96 hours after detention (if the horse owner does not reclaim the horse), rather than the 14 days under the AA 1971. Disposal can include humane destruction, sale or disposal in another way, such as giving the horse to charity. Previously, landowners were restricted to sale at market or public auction only.
  • The landowner who detains a horse has a duty to ensure the welfare of the animal during the period of detention. The costs involved in doing so and other expenses arising from the detention (this includes any damage to property) can be recovered from the horse owner.

The new legislation applies to England only. Wales has legislated separately on the issue by the Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014.

For more information and advice on removing or detaining fly-grazing horses, please contact Lucinda Brown on 01223 532721 or click here to email Lucinda.