The British Horse Society has voiced its concerns over the proposed new animal health legislation

The BHS has expressed its concerns to DEFRA that the Animal Health Bill now going through Parliament could be open to “misinterpretation by officials”.

The bill is designed to give government officials from the department more power to enter premises and slaughter animals to prevent the spread of FMD.

The BHS says it accepts that the majority of proposals in the bill do not apply to horses as they can neither get, nor transmit the disease and so it “should not significantly affect horseowners”.

But a spokeswoman for the BHS, Nichola Gregory, said: “In the first few weeks of the outbreak some officials were reported to have told horseowners that their animals would be slaughtered. So while the bill may not intend to include horses, there is the potential for Ministry officials to get it wrong. Our concern is will it spelt out clearly enough?”

A spokesman for DEFRA said he believed that the concerns are misplaced. “No horses were culled during the FMD outbreak,” he said.

“The bill is quite clear and there is no reason why it should be misinterpreted.”

The bill lists a table of diseases, including African horse sickness, for which application could be made for the legislation to be extended.

However, there would have to be a debate in the Commons for this to be included by the bill.