The RSPCA is advising horse owners to be aware the new Control of Horses Act, which aims to deter fly-grazing, has taken effect (26 May).
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 the number of horses fly-grazed to be more than 3,000.
It means owners who graze their animals on private land can have their horses seized by the landowner and either sold or otherwise disposed of within just four days.
The owners can be charged for any damage to the land as well as for the care of the horses. The new law should also put the onus back onto owners to comply with other legislation such as compulsory microchipping, as any horse being fly-grazed will only be returned if it has been it microchipped.
RSPCA assistant director of public affairs David Bowles said: “This law will make a big difference to horse welfare as landowners can more quickly deal with fly-grazing animals, instead of leaving them on unsuitable land without grazing, shelter or additional food, which is all too often the case.
“It is now time for irresponsible owners to remove illegally grazed horses and to provide them with the proper care. They should also be getting their horses microchipped. Otherwise, from today, they could lose their animals completely if they persist in fly-grazing.”
The RSPCA #HomesforHorses campaign is still running, with 70 horses finding new owners or fosterers since the end of March.
To apply to adopt one of the horses, ponies or donkeys in care, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/homesforhorses