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“Don’t let the chance to license livery yards slip away,” is the cry from the horse world following the Animal Welfare Bill’s passage to the Lords.

There is currently no requirement for livery yards to be licensed in any way, and the standards of care at DIY yards has been a growing cause for concern.

“DEFRA is still recommending livery yard licensing, but we must keep evidence for it coming forward while an assessment of the costs for the scheme is undertaken,” Lesley Barwise-Munro of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) told H&H.

The Animal Welfare Bill of England and Wales is due an 18 April reading, having completed its passage through the Commons. Livery yard licensing is expected to form part of secondary legislation drawn up next year.

“DEFRA is talking about making exemptions to licensing — such as yards that have already sought BHS approval and Thoroughbred studs — but I worry about consistency. We must not have different levels of licensing,” added Mrs Barwise-Munro.

Another aspect of the Bill that has been greeted with scepticism was a new clause on “improvement notices” added last week, to be served to horse owners suspected of neglect.

The notices would be served by an inspector from the state veterinary service or local authority on an animal owner failing to provide the Bill’s duty of care. But specific failure to comply with a notice will not constitute an offence.

The International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) is calling for the introduction of improvement notices and its veterinary advisor, Keith Meldrum, said: “I’m delighted the system has been introduced, but I’m concerned that it’s not legally enforceable.”

A DEFRA spokesman said the notices are intended to “educate the animal-keeping public”, and that making non-compliance an offence would create further legal work and reduce the scope of the Bill.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (30 March 06)
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