The country’s largest welfare charities, countryside and farming organisations welcomed the passing of the Control of Horses Bill, which will become law before the general election.

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. 

The bill, passed on March 18, will bring England into line with Wales, which introduced a similar law in early 2014.

This may have led to the practice growing in England where charities estimate the number of horses fly-grazed to be more than 3,000, causing misery for equines, communities and taxpayers.

The law will require landowners to keep any abandoned equines placed on their land for just four days – a drop from the current two weeks. It will also allow more options to dispose of equines, including gifting horses to charity or humane euthanasia.

The National Farmer’s Union (NFU) and World Horse Welfare welcomed the news after many years of lobbying. World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “After almost three years of campaigning, all of the organisations in our coalition are delighted 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 charities have been struggling to help the thousands of horses being bred indiscriminately and kept without proper care. It will also help landowners, farmers, communities and taxpayers as it will make action to remove horses much more swift, straightforward and less expensive to take. 

“The success of the Welsh legislation demonstrates these laws will work if they are used – so do use them. We are all immensely grateful to Julian who fought so hard to get this bill on the table, and successfully secured cross-party backing through Parliament.”

Redwings chief executive Lynn Cutress said the passing of the bill was a significant move in improving horse welfare, but stressed the fight had not yet been won.

She said: “The fight against fly-grazing has yet to be won. Although required by law, the enforcement of compulsory passporting and microchipping of horses is lacking, as is a centralised database for storing and retrieving horse and owner information to bring fly-grazing perpetrators to account.”

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