The Private Member’s Bill, introduced by MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy, completed its journey through the House of Lords in March. It has been supported through every stage by a coalition of animal welfare charities and rural organisations including Redwings Horse Sanctuary, the RSPCA, British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare, the CLA, Countryside Alliance and the NFU.*
Similarly to the Control of Horses Act (Wales), which came into effect in January 2014, the new legislation gives greater powers to English authorities to seize illegally grazed horses. The Bill also provides greater reassurance for landowners who find themselves victim to fly-grazing in significantly reducing the lengthy and expensive process of removing the horses from their land; under the new legislation, the authorities will be able to take action after four days rather than a minimum of two weeks as it was previously. They will also have a wider choice of options to secure the future of the horses, including rehoming to charities, instead of them simply being sold at public auction as was the case previously.
Redwings first flagged the issue of fly-grazing in 2012 and since then has been working to raise awareness of the illegal practice, which can cause serious problems not just for the horses themselves, but also for landowners where it can greatly affect their livelihood. It can even threaten the safety of the public.
More often than not, fly-grazed horses are left to fend for themselves on private or public land without sufficient shelter, water or food, and subsequently fall victim to serious (and preventable) illnesses. Furthermore, the horses are often grazed on land without a suitably fenced perimeter leading to tragic incidents of animals escaping onto busy roads and motorways. The charity therefore believes the swift progress of the Control of Horses Bill for England is a significant move in improving horse welfare, protecting landowners, reducing risk to public health and deterring irresponsible owners.
Redwings Chief Executive Lynn Cutress said: “I would like to express my sincere thanks to our fantastic supporters for their incredible help and support throughout this campaign, to the other organisations and charities who stood alongside us and helped us raise awareness of this issue, and of course to Julian Sturdy MP who championed this important legislative change. We really hope that, just as they have seen in Wales, this new legislation will enable swifter action where there is a problem and act as a real deterrent against this irresponsible practice in future.”
If members of the public are concerned about fly-grazed horses in their area, they are advised to contact their local council or the landowner. Redwings Horse Sanctuary’s welfare team are also on hand to offer advice and receive reports of welfare concerns, contact them on 01508 481008 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.