In a bid to crack down on the growing problem of fly-grazing, Mendip District Council has adopted new powers which allow it to remove abandoned horses from council land.
It is hoped that the powers from the Control of Horses Act 2015, which were adopted by Cabinet at its meeting last night (Monday 13 March), will both protect the public and tackle the neglect of abandoned horses.
Fly-grazing is when a horse is left on someone’s land without the permission of the landowner. In recent years there has been an increase in horses being found grazing on council land, alongside a rise in the number of horses being left at various sites around the Frome area.
Landowners have a duty of care towards any animal on their property so fly-grazing passes the responsibility to feed and care for the animal on to someone other than the owner. This allows unscrupulous owners of horses to retain ownership but not a duty of care.
Fly-grazing horses are usually tethered to prevent them roaming and this can cause them injuries by the collar being too tight and cutting into the horse’s head or neck. There is also a risk that they can become entangled in the tether rope and means they are unable to run from another animal or person who may wish to do them harm.
Under the Control of Horses Act 2015, which gives private landowners the same powers as local authorities, landowners can take possession of abandoned horses after a four-day notification period.
If the horse’s owner has not come forward and claimed the animal within that four day period, then the horse can be seized and re-homed privately or to a charity, sold or, as a last resort, humanely destroyed.
Ian Glover, Enforcement Officer at Mendip District Council, said: “There has been a steady increase in the problems of fly-grazing in Mendip, particularly in the east of the district.
“Fly-grazing not only puts public safety at risk, but can lead to unnecessary suffering for the horse that has been abandoned.
“This new law gives Mendip the powers to remove horses after four days of them being abandoned and, hopefully, find them a new home where they will be properly cared for.”
Cllr Nigel Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood and Community Health Services, said: “These new powers will not only allow us to tackle the increasing problem of fly-grazing, but will help improve public safety and crack down on the neglect of abandoned horses.
"We shall do all we can to ensure no healthy animal’s life is threatened and every effort will be made to re-home any animals found abandoned. Any extreme action will be the last resort, and only then sanctioned on veterinary advice that the animal’s wellbeing and health necessitates it.”
Private landowners who would like advice on the new law can contact the council’s Neighbourhood Services Enforcement Team on 0300 303 8588.