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A new bill to try and clamp down on fly-grazing has taken a step closer to becoming law today (Thursday 8 January).

The Control of Horses Bill, tabled by the Member of Parliament for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, has passed the committee stage and now moves on to its final stage in the House of Commons.

Currently farmers and landowners, local authorities, animal welfare charities and vets have few powers to tackle fly-grazing because action depends on identifying owners who are absent.

The Bill aims to help England follow in the footsteps of Wales, which introduced legislation in January 2014 giving local authorities the power to seize or impound horses abandoned on public or private land without permission.

The CLA, National Farmers’ Union and Countryside Alliance have joined forces with the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings, the British Horse Society and Blue Cross to champion the Bill which was first proposed in July last year.

“Fly-grazing is a practice that wreaks havoc in the countryside and can mean great misery to landowners and the mistreated horses alike,” said Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner.

“Until now the legal powers to address the problem have been lacking but if this Bill is passed it will be a significant step forward for animal welfare and landowners’ rights.

“We now call on the Government to ensure the Bill completes its passage in the Commons as swiftly as possible and that peers in the House of Lords give it their support so it will be on the Statute Book before the end of this Parliament.”

The RSPCA reiterated that 70% of horses taken in by the charity cannot be linked to an owner.

The charity’s David Bowles said: “We are pleased that the government has decided it wants to help to solve this problem.

“Horse owners need to be made accountable for their animals and power needs to be given back to enforcers.”