Animal Welfare  Frequently Asked Questions and Answers


Graham Capper

Former Senior Welfare officer for Trading Standards animal health and welfare

Head officer for U.K.  National Panel Animal Health and Welfare

And former chairman of Welsh Animal health and Welfare group

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The answers to these  questions are not definitive legal explanations; to obtain a true legal definition reference must be made to the applicable law.


In addition not all local authorities enforce to the welfare act in relation to equines, so you would need to contact your local authority to enquire if they do support the equine laws


Frequently Asked Questions ant their Answers


1.  The Public Highway


Q.  a)    If in a public area (school playing fields, parks etc.) there are horses fly grazing and the owners unknown  what should relevant representatives do? Where do they stand within the law.


A. a)    If the horses are on local authority land the first point of contact would be the local authority. In Wales it  would be The Trading Standards Public Protection. Or Environmental Health.


 Q. b)   If someone gets hurt within these area’s by the animals who is responsible and where do they stand by law.


A. b)    If the local authorities are aware of the situation they could be held responsible, providing the animals are not being chased, handled or interfered with in any way.


Q. c)    How can stray horses be identified?


A. c)    If the horses are born in 2010 and after they should be micro chipped.  Anyrehabilitated race horse that has come from the racing fraternity should also be micro chipped. There is no other way of identifying  stray horses.


Q. d)   If horses are straying onto a public highway what should you do?


 A. d.)   Report to the Police with all the details. The Police are responsible to remove all animals on the highway.


 Q. e)    If there is a stray horse on the highway and we collide who is responsible?

A.e)    Normally the owner of the animal or the landowner where the horse has strayed from. The driver of the vehicle also has a responsibility towards the animals that have strayed onto the highway.


 2. Livery Yards


Q. a)    What is the law regarding abandoned horses on livery yards.

A. a)    If the owner has abandoned their horse, the livery yard owners must first inform the police of such within 48 hours prior to a 14 day notice displayed by the yard owner for the removal of the horse.  If the horse has not been removed after this notice has been served, the livery yard owner can then sell the animal to recover his/her expenses but the remaining money must be given to the owner.  However a passport must be
acquired  (see Welfare Q.j.) Alternatively you can sue in the civil courts for the expenses and the judge can decide what should happen to the horse.

Q. b)   If any horse is being neglected on a yard who is responsible for its welfare.

A. b)     Under the animal welfare act 2007 (code of practice for the welfare of equines) and depending on what type of livery (full-part or DIY) as to the degree of responsibility, however the act requires all yards with some degree of responsibility to provide the horses 5 needs.

The 5 Needs of the Horse.

  1. Has a suitable environment to live in.     2. Has a healthy Diet.       3.  Is able to behave
         4. Has appropriate company.      5. Is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Q. c)    If a horse needs veterinary treatment on a yard and the owner will not call a vet who is responsible for the animal’s welfare and what should be done.

A.c)    Report it to the local authorities,animal health and welfare dept or to horse charities that have welfare officers, World Horse Welfare, British Horse Society or RSPCA.

Q. d) If you keep your horse on a livery yard who should hold the passport.

A.d)   The owner can keep the passport providing they can produce it if requested to do so. A photo copy of such could be held at the yard.

Q. e)    What action can a livery yard owner take against an owner of a horse being cruelly treated.

A. e) Report to the local authority’s animal health and welfare or report to WHW, BHS or RSPCA. Etc.   Taking notes and/or diary with photographic evidence would be advantageous.


3. Landowners


Q. a)    What can a landowner do if someone puts a horse on his land without his knowledge, and who is responsible for the horses welfare.

A. a)    The landowner takes on the responsibility when he becomes aware that the horse is on his land and is responsible for its welfare.  If no owner can be found a 14 day removal notice must be displayed before action any further can be taken.  See note Livery Yards question a).

Q. b)   If you give someone permission to put their horse on your land who is responsible for its welfare.


A. b)    The owner is primary responsible but be aware that the landowner could become responsible if the horse’ welfare is compromised.

Q. c)    Can a landowner sell the horse to reclaim his costs for any keep and expenses during the time the horse has been on his land?


A. c)    Action can be taken in a civil law court against the owners for costs and expenses that the landowner has had to provide for the animals welfare.


4. Welfare.

Q. a) What is an improvement order?


A.a) An Improvement order can be served on anybody to improve the conditions in which a horse is kept.  It will state what must be done and within a certain time.  Only the local authorities’ official inspector can serve an improvement order.

Q. b)   If I do not agree with the contents of the order what can I do to appeal it and to whom.

A.b)    Nothing. There is no form of appeal.

Q. c)   If I am considering purchasing a horse without a passport would I be breaking the law.

A. c)    Yes and the seller would also be breaking the law.  You would also be aiding and abetting the seller.  There would also be a breach of returning a passport within 30 days of re-registering the passport.

Q. d)   Who would be liable the buyer or the seller?

A. d)   As Above.

Q. e)    If I see a horse, pony/donkey in a field and feel he cannot compete with his peers or the environment who can I complain to and what can be done.

A. e)    Report to the local authorities animal health and welfare and/or WHW-BHS –RSPCA

Q. f)    What official bodies are responsible for equine welfare issues?

A. f)     The welfare act is a none statutory requirement for local authorities to enforce, however some do. So report to local authorities’ animal health and welfare. The Police, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency.

Q. g)   What is the law regarding welfare issues.

A. g)    These come under the animal welfare act 2007 – the 5 basic needs.  See liveryyards question b.

Q. h)   Why do horses have to have passports.


A. h)    For human health protection and to ensure that there is no medical residue in the carcass going for human consumption.  However passports are also needed for the registering of horses moving from Ireland, France and the UK without having to have a full health certification.  These can also be used in disease outbreak.

Q. i)    Is a passport proof of ownership?


A. i)    No.

Q. j)   If a person owns a horse but has no passport, where can they obtain a passport from?

A.j)     Get a vet to microchip and sketch if necessary and complete and sign an application form.  This can be sent to a passport organisation.  Details of such can be found at