MPs are due to debate a bill that could enable local authorities and landowners to take swift and cost-effective action to deal with fly-grazing horses, and act as a better deterrent.

More than 4,000 horses in the UK are thought to be illegally grazed and left in places such as roadsides and on wasteland with little or no care from owners.

Welfare groups including the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and the Blue Cross are supporting the bill, sponsored by Conservative York Outer MP Julian Sturdy.

Based around amendments to the Animals Act 1971, campaigners hope it will define fly-grazing and require owners to pay back the costs of their animals’ upkeep.

In Dartford, the removal of a single horse costs around £1,000.

Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare’s chief executive, argued there are not enough homes for UK horses.

He said: “There are areas in the south-east that are a real focal point for fly-grazing, partly because we have an oversupply of horses in this country for too few homes.

“But also because it’s so easy to get away with, the perpetrators are never brought to book for effectively stealing other people’s grazing, and also not caring for animals well enough.”

Colin Newmarch, Dartford Borough Council’s enforcement manager, said: “On council land it’s taxpayers’ money that clearly we shouldn’t be paying out.

“Once the horses are seized, they then become, in effect, the property of the landowner to look after and care for.”

He said the animals had to be looked after for a statutory 14-day period, with transportation and vets’ bills adding to the cost.

MPs are due to debate the Control of Horses Private Member’s Bill on Friday October 24.

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