Staff from nine councils, both urban and rural, attended a training day at RSPCA Lockwood Centre for Horse, Ponies and Donkeys last week (15 Feb).
The RSPCA, Redwings Horse Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare have been working closely together for several years to improve horse welfare in response to the horse crisis.
This latest training day aimed to encourage more local authorities to be better equipped at using the Control of Horses Act (2015) to help tackle the problem of fly-grazing, where irresponsible owners graze their horses on other people’s land without permission which can often lead to welfare problems such as them escaping onto busy roads.
Rachel Williams, senior parliamentary advisor for the RSPCA, said: “When we asked local councils if they would value training on the Control of Horses Act the response was a very clear ‘yes.’
"Fly-grazing of horses is a big issue, and can lead to welfare problems. Often the land used for fly-grazing is unsuitable for horses, the grazing isn't very good, it's near busy roads and the fencing isn't suitables so it puts animals at risks.
"Thankfully the Control of Horses Act allows councils to take action quickly and this workshop was designed to help them make the most of the relatively new powers which should deter irresponsible horse ownership and drive up welfare."
She added: “Spreading best practice and helping local councils to work together - and with charities and others - is one of the best ways to help protect horse welfare, especially in the difficult economic circumstances councils find themselves at the moment.”
After an introduction to the Control of Horses Act by Rachel Williams, the training continued with a talk about multi-agency working from Steven Gale, Animal Health and Welfare Officer for Stockton on Tees Borough Council.
Andy Shaw from GRC Bailiffs gave an insight into the role of bailiffs when it comes to equine issues, and Claire Gordon, Chief Field Officer from World Horse Welfare, spoke about the ways in which animal welfare charities can assist when problems with fly-grazed horses arise, and also their limitations.
Claire said: “We are delighted to be working with the RSPCA and Redwings Horse Sanctuary to run these training days. It is an important opportunity to explain how charities like World Horse Welfare can support local authorities in tackling fly-grazing through use of the Control of Horses Act and also to demonstrate the value charities can bring to these situations thanks to their local knowledge and experience in working with incidents of fly-grazing.”
The day rounded off with a discussion on the welfare problems posed to fly grazing horses, led by Nicolas de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour at Redwings Horse Sanctuary. This was followed by a practical handling session using some of the rescued horses and ponies at RSPCA Lockwood for the session. This was led by Redwings Equine Behaviour Manager Sarah Hallsworth and Redwings Welfare Veterinary Surgeon Roxane Kirton.
Nic de Brauwere said: “My colleagues and I were extremely keen to help devise and deliver the training day for local authority representatives on the Control of Horses Act, alongside the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare.
“Effective partnership working and a shared understanding are so vital to ensure the success and effectiveness of implementing the Control of Horses Act and to uphold horse welfare.
“I believe that a better understanding both of the context of fly-grazing from a welfare organisation’s perspective and the reasons behind why owners fly-graze will lead to more effective, long-term resolutions to the problem.”
The training course was attended by sixteen staff members from eight councils - Cambridgeshire County Council, Chiltern District Council, Dorset County Council, Hounslow Borough Council, Mendip District Council, Spelthorne Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Winchester City Council.