Fly Grazing: Legal Precedent?

Vale of Glamorgan council are moving faster now, perhaps in light of the episode in which forty horses were left to trash Woodland Trust land. Sixty horses dumped on land near Cardiff Airport have been rehomed via charities like Redwings, Horse World and the Bransby Home of Rest for Horses. The BBC reports:

… as the landowner, the council had been left to foot the bill for their care and welfare.

Under the Animals Act 1971, a landowner can issue a 14-day notice for the owner of animals left on its land to claim them, after which the landowner becomes the legal owner.

A letter in the local Penarth Times draws attention to the frequency with which fly grazing occurs in the Vale:

This mass grazing started around mid-January 2011 and by the end of February, to local knowledge, there had been at least six to seven deaths, including two fatalities before December 2010.

The numbers of horses and ponies vary from 150 to 400 at any stage, all at different locations, however when they don’t have food they break out or are let out. Every day horses are out on public highways, dual carriageways, school rugby fields, and busy A roads. Police are regularly called out, up to 30 times in any one week.

In the spring of 2011, 20 horses were dumped at Rhoose Airport site. All were re-homed except for one which had to be put to sleep.

However, later in the year a considerable number of foals were dumped in the same field, with one thrown over the fence. She was taken in by the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies but later had to be put to sleep due to a broken pelvis. A number of others also died from Strangles, a dreadful disease. But these horses and ponies are still being moved around, spreading the disease.

Horses are struggling in South Wales, through no fault of their own. Last year commoners on Gower complained about the low value of their horses, which grazed on public land, and seventy strays were abandoned in Llanelli. Free-roaming horses were fitted with high-visibility collars after being hit by cars. The admin involved in introducing horse ownership licences would be huge and the loopholes inevitable, but when you read about case after case of fly grazing and neglect, it’s hard not to consider it.

21–05–2012 update: Horse and Hound on a bid to alter the law so that field owners can passport and sell horses left on their land.

“Fly Grazing” – the New Name for Crappy Horseownership Practices

The BBC reports on a herd of forty cobs dumped on a conservation area in the Vale of Glamorgan and left to decimate the grazing and starve to death. The police cannot get involved as this is a “civil matter” and the villagers have explored every legal avenue, so the horses will probably be destroyed. Sad and pointless, though my flippant suggestion would be that the Woodland Trust tidy them up and sell ’em in the US as gypsy vanners for five-figure sums.

EDIT: At 3pm today I received a round robin email from Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk saying that they were in negotiations to rescue the ponies. The BBC has, however, reported that all the ponies were removed overnight – presumably by the owner.