RSPCA welcomes passing of ‘Fly-grazing’ Bill into law

Charity receiving thousands of calls per year hopes legislation will help


The RSPCA, which receives more than 22,000 calls every year about horse welfare, is pleased that the Control of Horses Bill will become law before the General Election.


Along with other welfare charities and countryside and farming organisations the RSPCA welcomes the passing of the Bill by the House of Lords today (18 March).

The new law will deter and help to swiftly resolve cases of ‘fly-grazing’ – the practice of placing horses on private and public land without permission.  It will bring England into line with Wales, which introduced a similar law in early 2014 and may have led to the practice growing in England where charities estimate that the number of horses fly-grazed to be more than 3,000, causing misery for horses, communities and taxpayers.


The RSPCA itself has more than 600 horses in its care and receives more than 600 calls each week about abandoned, neglected or mistreated horses, ponies and donkeys.  Many of these are grazed illegally on other peoples’ land.


The problem has worsened in recent years with factors such as the economic climate, falling prices of horses at market and irresponsible ownership all contributing to horses being left to breed indiscriminately and without enough food or the right sort of care.


The new legislation will make it easier for landowners and authorities to deal with illegally grazing horses*.  It should also put the onus back onto owners to comply with other legislation such as compulsory microchipping as any horse that is being fly grazed will only be returned if it has been it microchipped.


RSPCA assistant director of public affairs David Bowles said:  “We are delighted that Julian Sturdy MP’s Private Members Bill has successfully been passed and will become law before the election.  This law will make a big difference to horse welfare as landowners can more quickly deal with fly-grazing animals, instead of them having to leave them on unsuitable land without grazing, shelter or additional food, which is all too often the case.


“We know the Welsh legislation has made an enormous difference in its first year and we know this law could reduce the suffering of many horses and make owners face up to their responsibilities.”

*The Private Members’ Bill tabled by Julian Sturdy MP for York Outer makes small, but important, changes to the Animals Act 1971 (the law most frequently used to address fly-grazing cases).  The updated law will require landowners to keep any horses placed on their land for only four working days, as opposed to the current two weeks, makes it simpler for landowners or local authorities to remove horses being fly grazed and will allow more options to dispose of the horses besides public sale, such as gifting them to a charity, selling them privately or humane euthanasia.  The Bill will receive Royal Assent by 30 March 2015 and thereby become law.


The RSPCA #HomesforHorses campaign launches on 27 March.  To apply to adopt one of the 640 horses, ponies or donkeys in our care please visit






In 2014 the RSPCA received 22,046 calls about horse welfare involving an incredible 72,106 equines (as one call may relate to more than one horse).