Horse owners who abandon unwanted animals to fend for themselves on private land should feel the full force of the law, a leading landowners’ organisation claims.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) warn the practice, known as fly grazing, is prevalent around York and in South and West Yorkshire and County Durham, and it is only likely to worsen unless it is made a criminal offence, rather than being classed as civil trespass, as it is at present.
Douglas Chalmers, director for policy and public affairs for the CLA in the North, said the current mechanisms for any prosecution were no deterrent.
“The landowner left with these abandoned horses is also left with the cost of looking after them, the legal responsibility for any damage or injury caused by them and with having to deal with the lost grazing for their own stock and any damage caused,” he said.
“With local authorities already having to deal with horses left on publicly-owned land and animal charities at full stretch, it is often down to the landowner to take costly legal action to have the horses removed safely.”
Mr Chalmers added: “Some local authorities and police forces are putting procedures in place to tackle this growing problem, but it’s not enough. The only real solution is to make horse abandonment a crime so that those who break the law are dealt with efficiently and appropriately.”
Speaking in the House of Commons this week, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy urged the Government to legislate for tougher sanctions.
“When horses are starving on the roadside, justice dictates that a custodial sentence should be brought to bear for such horrible abuse.”
The MP pledged to discuss a solution to the problem in his constituency with the police, York Council, the RSPCA, the National Farmers’ Union, and Traveller representatives at a meeting in the New Year.
“If we all work together, we can stop the abuse once and for all,” he said.