Greater powers to deal with abandoned horses are being called for by a leading welfare organisation after the second reading of the Draft Animal Welfare Bill.

The International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) is calling on the government to give welfare organisations more powers in abandonment cases and to make abandonment a specific offence.

“If someone can’t afford to keep an animal or it has come to the end of its life and they can’t afford to dispose of it, it may be abandoned. This is partially addressed, but there should be a wider provision that allows us to take over,” said ILPH veterinary advisor Keith Meldrum.

“The issue is at what stage can we assume legal ownership? We would like a situation when, after three months of having an animal in our care, we can go to court to ask for transfer of ownership.”

The ILPH, RSPCA and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) welcomed wider aspects of the Bill, and support from within the House of Commons during the 6hr debate on 10 January.

In addition to the duty of care offence (a new legal requirement for the keeper of an animal to provide a level of care), the ILPH has called for legally binding Statutory Improvement Notices (SINs). SINs give police and welfare officers the right to ensure immediate improvements can be made to substandard welfare conditions.

The suggestion to license livery yards received full support, as did the government’s plans to introduce registration of animal sanctuaries.

The British Horse Industry Confederation is producing a fact sheet detailing recommendations for licensing and its renewal, to advise the standing committee taking the Bill forward.

“We’re recommending livery yards be checked on an 18-monthly basis, with a vet inspection every three years,” said former BEVA president Lesley Barwise-Munro. “Riding schools shouldn’t go beyond a year for both welfare reasons and public safety.”

The Bill is not expected to become law until the end of July, after passing through committee sessions in the Commons and Lords.

  • Read this news story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (19 January, ’06)

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