Defra has launched its animal welfare codes, including one offering advice for horse owners.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Minister for the Horse, launched the booklets outlining the responsibilities horse, cat and dog owners have under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on 8 December.

He said: “The codes contain straightforward advice, supported by organisations including the RSPCA, British Veterinary Association and British Horse Society.

“They explain people’s legal responsibility to help protect pets from pain, injury and disease.”

The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids outlines environment, diet, behaviour, company and health and welfare — and includes extra information about tethering and horse passports.

It follows codes already created for Scotland and Wales. Although failure to conform to the code is not an offence in itself, the standards outlined can be used as evidence in court.

Vet Nic de Brauwere, who is head of welfare at the Redwings equine charity and chairman of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), said: “It is exactly what England needed. There are now codes covering horse welfare across the UK [apart from Northern Ireland].

“It is important for there to be a definitive publication that owners can look to and can form the basis for prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act.”

He said it would work well with NEWC’s compendium, which was first published in 2002 as a guideline for horse welfare in the UK and goes into greater detail than the code.

For a copy of the code, go to www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/cruelty/index.htm

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (17 December, ’09)