Published — 9 July, 2019

Horse welfare enforcement


Thank you for contacting me regarding the enforcement of horse welfare.

I appreciate your concerns on this issue. Overall, local authorities must be able to make decisions based on local needs, resource priorities and the local arrangements that work best for them. While local authorities have powers of entry to inspect complaints of suspected animal cruelty and take out prosecutions where necessary, so do the Animal & Plant Health Agency and the police. I am aware that all three often work in close partnership to ensure that the welfare of animals, including horses, is protected.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 anyone is able to investigate allegations of animal neglect and if necessary take forward a prosecution – on this basis the RSPCA enforces animal welfare legislation and successfully prosecutes 800 to 1,000 people each year. The RSPCA investigates many allegations of animal welfare offences where additional powers are needed, for example to seize animals. I understand in such cases the RSPCA liaises with the relevant authorities to ensure these powers are used appropriately. In addition, the equine charity, World Horse Welfare, will also advise on cases of horse welfare.

Local authorities are required to enforce The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations which includes the licensing of businesses that hire out horses for riding, or instruction in riding, and which requires inspectors to be suitably qualified. I would therefore expect most local authorities to have inspectors trained in enforcing equine welfare more generally.

I am also encouraged that from October 2020 it will be mandatory for owners to microchip their horses, ponies and donkeys, allowing local authorities and police to track down the owners of abandoned horses and ensure that appropriate action is taken.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.