RSPCA Cymru is marking the first anniversary of the Control of Horses (Wales) Act coming into force.
The new law has equipped Local Authorities in Wales with additional powers to tackle fly-grazing and abandonment problems which can have severe consequences for equine welfare and community safety.
RSPCA Cymru’s Steve Carter said: “The Welsh Government introduced the Control of Horses (Wales) Act in January 2014 and the RSPCA was pleased to be a key stakeholder in the development of the legislation.
“The Act has been a positive step forward – and acts as a deterrent and a useful tool in promoting responsible equine ownership.
“We continue to work with Local Authorities with regards to utilising the Act and work together on operations.
“We understand the Act is not a panacea, requires robust enforcement and there’s more action needed to ensure equine welfare.”
Mr Carter added: “RSPCA Cymru understands the financial problems faced in many city and county halls across Wales, and has urged the Welsh Government to monitor the effectiveness of the legislation and any additional support needed by councils.
“But of course the Act does not provide all the answers to Wales’ equine crisis. Issues such as increasing public understanding, reducing instances of tethering and regulation of livery yards all require action.”
City of Cardiff Council, Cabinet Member, councillor Daniel De’Ath, said: “In Cardiff we have worked hard to tackle the issue of stray horses, we previously used the Cardiff City Act 1984 – section 29.
“In it’s first year we have used the new Act over 70 times , however more still needs to be done to solve the issue of stray horses.
“We as a council would push for further legislation/amendments to be made. We need further deterrents to owners, perhaps introducing a fixed penalty notice. Stray horses are a danger to the citizens of Cardiff and it’s unfair on the animals.”
In the summer of 2014, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Powys councils worked in partnership to use the Act to successfully take ownership of almost 50 feral horses and ponies from common land near Ebbw Vale.
There had been a history of problems with the animals due to uncontrolled breeding, lack of veterinary care, lack of food and problems with worms and lice, resulting in some of the ponies sadly dying. A Welsh Government funding grant was key to resourcing the operation.
A spokesperson for the councils said: “The plight of these horses and ponies had become a significant issue. With very limited resources, we had previously worked with charities to intervene under welfare legislation to provide what care we could, especially to those in most need.
“However, it became clear that a more permanent solution was required and thanks to the powers given to us by the Control of Horses Act we were able to seize the animals and, when no-one came forward to admit ownership, we were able to find them homes with Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk, Lluest Horse and Pony Trust in Carmarthenshire and the Mare and Foal Sanctuary in Devon.”
Other Local Authorities have also used the Act over the past year, including Wrexham County Borough Council, which used the Act on two occasions. Each incident involved a single horse, one horse was rehomed and one euthanised on veterinary advice.
The RSPCA is also campaigning for a change in the law in England, and a Private Members’ Bill – which would give English Local Authorities similar powers to those in Wales – is currently going through the Parliamentary process.
If you would like to help the RSPCA, you can give £3 now by texting HELP to 78866 (text costs £3 + one standard network rate message). We are a charity and rely on public donations to exist.
RSPCA Cymru’s Equine Welfare Indicators report from 2013 can be found here: