The Problems With Fly-grazing
You may have heard of fly-tipping. This is the practice of illegally dumping rubbish and unwanted items where they really shouldn't be. You may not, however, be familiar with the term fly-grazing which is equally unpleasant and unethical. Unscrupulous owners take their horses to graze on land without the landowner’s permission or to areas where they have no grazing rights. This can lead to horses finding their way onto roads, damage to property and can cause great distress to the effected land owners.
The Problem with Fly-Grazing
Fly-grazing poses a serious problem for landowners, horses and the public. Horses left on public land like parks pose a threat to people and can cause considerable damage to land and fencing. This damage can cost a small fortune to repair. Horses which are not cared for properly can quickly become sick and can even starve to death when abandoned as they are not able to find the right source of forage and nutrition. If horses are left in unsuitable places they are also at risk of injuring themselves as the areas may not have been checked over for safe grazing. Fly-grazing had been an increasing problem but until recently there was little that anyone could do to stop it.
Until last year there was no proper deterrent to fly-grazing. Up to 3000 horses could be fly-grazing at any one time in the UK and there was no specific legislation in place to tackle the problem. The perpetrators could use the legal complications and loopholes to their advantage. Landowners had few options for any horses which were seized. The process of removing horses lasted a lot longer than it should have, which meant exposing them to the risk of harm for longer and costing landowners a fortune.
In May 2015 there was finally a change in the law following years of pressure exerted by horse welfare organisations. The Control of Horses Act 2015 applies only to England. Similar legislation was already in place in Wales and had proved effective. Private landowners, companies, local authorities, commoner associations, the Highways Agency and farmers can now remove horses quickly from their land. They are no longer required to sell them at public auctions where the original owners can buy them back at low cost. Horses can be re-homed with charities, sold privately or, as a last resort, euthanasia.
What Do You Do if You Discover Horses Fly Grazing?
When horses are found to be fly-grazing this should be reported to the local council within 24 hours. If the owners of the animals are known they should be informed. If the horses are not removed by the owners within 4 days the landowner can then arrange for removal themselves and take the horses to a place of safety.
It is nearly a year since the new legislation came about and it will probably not put an end to fly-grazing and abandonment but it is hoped it will deter some irresponsible owners. It does at least give landowners more powers of redress and so could save them thousands of pounds and a great deal of time and distress. Most importantly, horses will be less likely to come to harm. Those discovered fly-grazing are less likely to end up back in the hands of the people who have treated them so cruelly. The Control of Horses Act 2015 isn't a perfect solution but goes a long way to addressing a serious issue.
Have you noticed an improvement in your area following the new legislation?