The Scottish Government is seeking views on proposals to extend licensing to “currently unlicensed animal-related services”, including livery yards. Also included are proposals to revoke the 1964 Riding Establishments Act and introduce new licensing for riding establishments through the same framework as the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021, and to extend statutory licensing “beyond riding establishments to a number of currently unregulated equine activities”, such as donkey hire and pony parties.
Throughout the consultation document, which includes data from the British Horse Society (BHS) and World Horse Welfare, the Scottish Government references welfare, transparency and accountability – and raises “key animal welfare concerns”.
“Currently in Scotland the provision of livery services is unregulated, with no licence or equine qualifications required to own or run a livery business. The absence of regulation and minimum standards to protect animal welfare and ensure accountability is a matter of concern,” said a Scottish Government spokesman.
It is proposed that a future statutory licensing scheme for livery providers would require anyone offering livery to undergo an inspection by the licensing authority before any licence is granted. These would be for one to three years; and an online register of those who held them would be published.
“The statutory licensing of livery services in Scotland would help ensure that horses are kept in safe and appropriate conditions, receive the care they need to maintain their health and wellbeing, and have opportunities to express natural behaviours and socialise. This would help promote the welfare of horses and provide assurance to owners that their animals are being cared for appropriately,” said the Scottish Government spokesman.
Sally McCarthy, executive director of riding school and livery yard Aberdeen Riding Club, told H&H she believes licensing is a “really good idea” and “long overdue”.
“I think it’s good that there is a consultation; by doing this we are more likely to end up with a system that works,” she said.
“From a welfare point of view licensing can only be a good thing; as long as it’s done in a way that’s transparent and that the criteria for the licence are fair and the same across every local authority in Scotland.”
Ms McCarthy, who is also chair of the BHS, added that she thinks it is positive that the Riding Establishments Act is being reviewed in Scotland.
“It’s quite an old piece of legislation now, the way we keep horses has changed, and any review is only going to be beneficial,” she said. “Riding schools are hugely in decline, so any changes to licensing need to support riding schools and local authorities need to acknowledge that we need to keep them going, and encourage more to start up.”
BHS national manager for Scotland Helene Mauchlen told H&H the society and World Horse Welfare welcome the consultation.
“Riding establishments are vital to Scotland’s horse world, but regulations around their licensing need a refresh,” she said.
“Meanwhile livery yards where so many people keep their horses are not regulated at all. This consultation is an opportunity to change this and give owners the peace of mind that the welfare of horses at these establishments will be protected. Our organisations have been working with the Scottish Government on these and other issues for some time, so we are delighted to see our joint work come to fruition.”
BHS chief operating officer Sarah Phillips added that the society is “looking forward to seeing what the outcome of the consultation is, and if this is something that could be replicated across the other nations.”
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