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New fly-grazing laws passed for England
The Control of Horses Act 2015 becomes English law on 26 May 2015 and is welcomed by welfare charities and countryside and farming organisations. Charities estimate that more than 3,000 horses are fly-grazed in England and legislation has been sorely needed. New laws have already been passed in Wales.
Under the new Act:
- Local authorities in England have the power to detain horses which are in any public place in their area without lawful authority. Public places include any common land, town or village green and any highway or highway verges.
- Freeholders and occupiers of land in England get a power to detain horses which are on their land without their permission.
- The owner is liable for damage caused by the horse and expenses incurred in keeping it while it is detailed and trying to discover who it belongs to.
- The horse can be detained for up to 96 hours provided the police or owner have been notified within 24 hours.
- During the 96 hour period the horse must be given up to the owner on demand and on payment for its keep and any expenses incurred by the person detaining it.
- After 96 hours the horse becomes the property of the person detaining it thus allowing detained horses to be disposed of 96 hours after detention (rather than 14 days).
- The period of 96 hours is the equivalent of 4 days but weekends and holidays do not count.
- Disposal is not limited to sale but can be humane destruction or disposal in any other way, such as giving the horse to a charity.
The Act should be a huge help in the battle against fly-grazing and although, if you find a horse in your fields, the onus is on you to notify the police or owner, you now only have to wait four days before you can dispose of it and you can reclaim your expenses out of any sale proceeds.
Of course no act of parliament can protect landowners from the heartache of having to resolve an issue with horses whose owners treat them in such a way and there is still the problem of persuading a charity to take the horse or finding another home or alternative solution.