RSPCA welcomes passing of Control of Horses Bill

Bill one step closer to becoming law

The RSPCA has welcomed the passing of the Control of Horses Bill at its Second Reading today (24 October).  The Bill was brought forward by Julian Sturdy MP for York Outer and will now progress to committee stage.

The charity has campaigned, alongside other equine charities and countryside organisations, for the Bill which we believe could improve animal welfare as well as providing a framework that will help landowners, local authorities, the police, charities and local communities to solve the problem of fly grazing.

control of horsesThe RSPCA alone has more than 700 horses in its care and receives about 500 complaints relating to horse welfare every week, many of which involve horses grazed on other peoples’ land.  It also rescued more than 1,700 (1,797) horses in 2013 and inspectors are reporting that

horse-related issues take up the majority of their time, with one in four (41%) saying that fly grazing is one of the most common problems affecting equines*.

The Bill had its first hearing in September and was introduced as a result of welfare charities estimating that in England alone at least 3,000 horses are being illegally grazed on public and private land without the landowner’s permission.  A staggering 70% of horses taken in by the RSPCA cannot be linked to an owner.

Fly grazing has become more common since the economic downturn, causing welfare problems, damage to crops and fencing and risks to the public when horses escape onto roads.

A major problem in tackling these issues in the inadequacy of existing legislation along with a lack of enforcement and compliance with equine identification laws – meaning irresponsible owners are not held to account.

RSPCA head of public affairs, David Bowles said:  “We have been fighting for several years now for the Government to introduce legislation to help tackle the horse crisis.  This Bill provides the Government with the opportunity to help local authorities and animal welfare organisations to tackle the fly grazing problem.”

“We are pleased that the Government has decided it wants to help to solve this problem.  Horse owners need to be made accountable for their own animals and power needs to be given back to enforcers.”

“For too long, charities like the RSPCA have been left to pick up the pieces when horses are left without food, water and veterinary care and we just don’t have the resources to carry on doing this indefinitely so this is a step in the right direction.

“I’d like to thank the many hundreds of our supporters who have written to their MPs and supported us dealing with the horse crisis and getting this Bill to committee stage.”

Read more about fly grazing at http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/horse