Complete the form below to ask us a question or make an enquiry. We’ll get back to you via phone or email as soon as possible.


Control of Horses Act 2015

Posted on 01st June 2017 in Rural Property & Countryside Matters, Dispute Resolution

Posted by

Jill Headford

Partner and Solicitor
Control of Horses Act 2015

A new law is now available to tackle the problem of fly-grazing in England. The grazing of horses on private or public land without permission has been a serious problem for land owners for some years. According to animal welfare charities it involves around 3,000 horses across the country at any one time.


What is the Control of Horses Act 2015

The Control of Horses Act 2015 amends the Animals Act 1971. Previously, anyone finding horses abandoned on their land had to wait 14 days before they could “dispose” of them by sale at market or public auction.  Frequently the owner would reclaim them at the last minute only to dump them again. However, as of 26 May 2015, the Control of Horses Act 2015 has brought about significant legal changes in favour of landowners and local authorities.


What is covered under the Control of Horses Act 2015?

  • A landowner who finds a horse in his field without permission, whether through straying or dumping, can insist on keeping it for 96 hours provided he gives notice to a police station and the owner of the horse (if known) within the first 24 hours.
  • The owner of the horse has 96 hours from the time of detention to collect the horse, failing which ownership of the horse passes to the landowner. This is a radical change in the law. Once the four days are up the land owner can either sell or dispose of the horse in any manner he chooses.  This could mean the horse being sold for profit or slaughter or even destroyed.
  • The horse owner is liable to the landowner for any damage the horse does to his land or property as well as any expenses the landowner incurs whilst detaining or disposing of the horse.
  • A landowner detaining a horse under the Act has a duty to treat it with reasonable care which specifically includes providing adequate food and water and in any case has a general obligation to ensure that its welfare needs are met.
  • The person detaining the horse can be liable in damages to the horse owner if he fails to treat it with reasonable care.
  • Local authorities have similar powers in respect of public land including common land, town or village greens and highways or highway verges.


What do horse owners need to be aware of?

Some may think that 4 days is a very short period of time for the owner to reclaim their horse before losing ownership, especially when part of it may have elapsed before the owner is notified, if notified at all.  Horses will normally be checked daily but one situation where injustice to the owner is foreseeable, is where a horse on temporary loan is allowed to stray.  If the loaner fails to act in time and if the owner is unaware of the situation and so does nothing, the horse will become the property of the landowner.

All horse owners in England need to be aware of the Control of Horses Act 2015 and understand that if their horse should stray and not be reclaimed within 4 days then they may lose ownership of it altogether and even find that it has been destroyed.

Since a police station has to be notified and will presumably put such notifications straight onto a national register, it will be crucial for the owner of a missing horse to contact the police immediately and microchipping may well prove to be a highly valuable means of urgent proof of identification in addition to the immediate production of an up to date passport.


Find out more

For advice please email our experienced equine law solicitors.

Contact our legal experts

Company & Industry

Related Insights


Key Points to Consider When Selling a Farm or Land in the UK

Posted on 27th February 2024 in Rural Property & Countryside Matters, Residential Property

It always serves to do some basic groundwork ahead of a sale of your land, whether that sale is imminent or not. Prior preparation can facilitate a smooth sale at the agreed price, rather than having to deal with the disappointment of delays and price adjustments down the line.

Posted by

Josh Gilbert

Partner & Solicitor

Public rights of way over private land: what are they?

Posted on 01st November 2023 in Rural Property & Countryside Matters, Property Litigation

One of the joys of living in the southwest is the access to the countryside that can be enjoyed. Many people will make regular use of the network of paths and trails - for the morning dog walk, for a lengthy weekend ramble or perhaps for something as simple as a shortcut to school – without ever giving their existence much thought.

Posted by

Joanne Young

Senior Associate & Solicitor