The RSPCA has welcomed the Government’s recognition of the problem of fly-grazing following a one-day inquiry, which took place on September 3.

Following a debate on the issue, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRACom) signalled its intention to clarify legislation on the matter.

The RSPCA is one of six major animal welfare charities and countryside organisations that have warned of the problem posed by fly-grazing (leaving horses on someone else’s land without permission).

A joint report between welfare groups, “Stop the scourge – time to address unlawful fly-grazing in England”, reveals the extent of the issue.

The report revealed more than 3,000 horses are being fly-grazed around England. Welfare groups now hope recognition of the problem will encourage legislation 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 the issue.

David Bowles, head of external affairs for the RSPCA, said: “We are pleased the Government has finally recognised the law needs clarifying to help stop the scourge of fly-grazing on urban and farm land. For years we 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.

It is a welcome step forward and we hope that new legislation could be on the statute book by the end of this parliament.  

“Already we’ve seen numbers of horses fly-grazed in England growing as numbers in Wales are on the decrease after it introduced its own tougher laws in January this year. Charities just cannot keep picking up the pieces when horses are left by irresponsible owners on other people’s land with no accountability and very little thought for the animals’ welfare.

“People expect us to be able to remove animals, but current legislation does not make this easy and we just cannot ask police to remove horses unless they are suffering.”

Particular fly-grazing hot spots are the Midlands and the Thames Estuary. A map has been produced to illustrate the scale of the problem.

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