Farmers get more powers to deal with fly-grazing

Horse in field

©Steve Black/Rex Shutterstock

Fly-grazing Q&A

  1. What does the new Control of Horses Act for England mean for farmers and landowners?
    They will have more powers to take effective action and to deal with the problem of fly-grazing more quickly.
  2. Why have the new laws been introduced?
    The problem of fly-grazing appears to have been increasing over recent years. As well as horse welfare concerns, fly-grazed horses can damage land, crops and fencing, restrict space for livestock and cost money to provide for welfare and safety. It has been very difficult, time-consuming and expensive for landowners to deal with these situations
  3. Now that the new law has come into force, what should landowners do if horses are illegally abandoned on their land?
    Under the new law, landowners can immediately move the horse to a safe place. They should then let the local police know within 24 hours. Landowners are advised to contact a local welfare horse or animal welfare charity.
  4. What options are now available for landowners to have the horses removed from their land?
    Under the new law, if the horse owner is not identified within four days, the landowner can take one of a range of actions. This is much faster than the previous minimum two-week wait. Landowners can now rehome seized horses to charities, rehome them privately or sell them privately. As a last resort, they will also have the option of having the animals humanely euthanised.

Farmers have been handed more powers to deal with horses that are illegally dumped on their land.

From Tuesday (26 May), landowners can now take fly-grazed horses to a place of safety immediately, notifying local police within 24 hours.

If no owner is identified in four working days, the landowner can take action such as rehoming the horses to charities or selling them privately.

See also: Welsh introduce law to tackle fly-grazing

Previously, landowners had to wait a minimum of two weeks by law before they could take any action.

These new rules come into effect under the Control of Horses Act for England, which aims to help farmers take swifter action to deal with illegally abandoned horses.

The legislation will help deter and swiftly resolve cases of fly-grazing – the practice of placing horses on private and public land without permission.

It will bring England into line with Wales, which introduced a similar law in early 2014 and may have led to the practice growing in England, where charities estimate about 3,000 horses are currently being fly-grazed, causing misery for horses, communities and taxpayers.

A campaign to change the law was driven by the Stop the Scourge coalition including rural organisations and welfare charities, and a Private Members Bill was introduced by Julian Sturdy MP in 2014.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 33,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, worked closely with a coalition of rural organisations and animal welfare charities to drive bill through parliament.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “We pressed for this new law so that farmers and landowners can act for swift resolution when faced with the problem of horses illegally abandoned on their land.

“Fly-grazed horses can damage land, crops and fencing, restrict space for livestock and cost money to provide for their welfare and safety.

“It has been very difficult, time consuming and expensive for landowners to deal with these situations but from today they can take swifter action to resolve the problem by, for example, rehoming the horses to charities or privately.” 

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