In the field adjacent to my house are some fly-grazed ponies. The grazing is poor and I am worried what will happen to them over winter. My friend says I shouldn’t feed or care for them because it could be seen as taking responsibility. What should I do?
The abandonment of horses on private land is extremely common. In recognition of this problem, there was an amendment to the Animal Act 1971 to include the Control of Horses Act 2015. This provides landowners with additional legal rights to deal with horses unlawfully grazing on their land. The aim of the Act is to enable local authorities and private landowners to work jointly to resolve this problem of fly-grazing. This invariably goes hand in hand with welfare concerns regarding starvation and neglect of abandoned horses.
The legislation enables the landowner to take prescribed actions to detain the horse. If the horse is not claimed back after following the rules within specified timescales by the owner, the landowner can dispose of the horse as they think fit.
Your friend is correct that by feeding or caring for this horse you assume some responsibility. This could open up a myriad of legal implications because you do not own this horse or the land. This would, in my view, make this an unwise course of action for you. Even though your intentions are admirable.
In this case, you have limited powers because you not own the land. I would recommend your first action should be to report your concern to the land owner if you know their identity. They may be unaware of the presence of the horse. You do first need to check these ponies are fly-grazing and not there with the permission of the landowner. However, if you cannot identify the landowner or they refuse to act, you could report the matter to the local authority who have certain powers. Alternatively, you could report your concerns to the Police, particularly if the horse is not secured as it may be a nuisance in terms of adjacent highways. If public health issues are evident this would also include the environmental health. Alternatively, you could report your welfare concerns to a relevant Animal Welfare Organisation, offering practical assistance and support.