Inspector with horse in field © RSPCA photolibrary

We along with other rural and welfare organisations are demanding action to tackle England’s ‘fly-grazing’ horses and their irresponsible owners.

Six major charities and country’s largest rural organisations have released the report on ‘fly-grazing’ – the practice of leaving horses on someone else’s land without permission.


Time to address unlawful fly-grazing

The report called ‘Stop the scourge – time to address unlawful fly-grazing in England’ reveals over 3,000 horses are being fly-grazed causing “misery for horses, landowners, animal welfare organisations and local authorities”.

We want to see new or updated legislation to tackle unlawfully grazed horses in England along the lines of the Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014. This would enable local authorities and landowners to take swift and cost-effective action to deal with fly-grazing horses, and act as a better deterrent.

Join us in calling on the Westminster Government to respond to the rising horse crisis.


Calls about fly-grazing increasing

Calls to welfare charities about fly-grazing have risen by two thirds in the past three years following concerns that horses are being abandoned.

Horse tethered in a field © RSPCAParticular fly-grazing ‘hot spots’ have grown in the Midlands and the Thames Estuary with hundreds of animals kept on verges, parkland or farmland in the worst hit areas. A map of ‘hot spots’ has been produced to illustrate the scale of the problem.

The report reveals that the horse meat scandal, the economic downturn, overbreeding and the high costs of keeping horses has created a perfect storm for horses to be abandoned.


Fly-grazing debated in parliament

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRACom) will hold a one-day inquiry on fly-grazing today, 3 September.

Parliament will debate a proposed change in the law in October when MP Julian Sturdy’s Control of Horses Bill, supported by all the organisations behind the report, will have its Second Reading.

Under the current law, landowners are powerless to remove horses from their land quickly and effectively and it is often impossible to link irresponsible owners to their animals; the closure of the UK’s national database of horses in 2012 impeded the effective enforcement of equine identification legislation.


Charities picking up the pieces

Fly-grazed horses threaten the livelihood of farmers, damage land, divert local authority resources and risk the safety of motorists when they escape on to roads.

Equine charities have to pick up the pieces caused by a complete lack of provision for the animals’ welfare and this can include veterinary treatment and providing extra food where there is a lack of grazing and water.

In many cases, there is intimidation of landowners if they try to take action and of those trying to help the horses.

Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare chief executive, speaking on behalf of the rural organisations and welfare charities said:

“It is time for government to do its part to help stop the scourge of fly-grazing in our countryside, farms and urban areas, because we cannot solve this problem alone using existing laws.


“For years rural organisations and welfare charities have been calling on Defra to bring in tougher laws on fly-grazing that will enable landowners, including local authorities, to act more quickly to resolve these situations and serve as a real deterrent.


“With Julian Sturdy’s Private Members Bill the Government has an opportunity to address this issue in England and make a real difference for rural communities and for horse welfare.”


What you can do

  • Join us in calling on the Government in Westminster to take urgent action to address the horse crisis. Take action now!
  • Room for a little one? We urgently need foster parents for horses so we can rescue more from harm. Could you foster for us?