Introducing “greenyard” policies as standard across the country should help save public money and prevent accidents.
World Horse Welfare has been working with authorities to share best practice on the policies, which set out how loose horses are dealt with. They involve people who are contracted to collect the horses and take them to a safe place until owners can be traced.
The charity’s chief field officer Claire Gordon told H&H if equines are found on roads, with no welfare issues, they are the police’s responsibility. But as many officers are not experienced with horses, and do not know what to do with them, this can cause problems, and a great deal of police time and effort is used.
If a greenyard policy is in place, officers report the incident and leave collecting the horses to those contracted to do so.
“If charities took in strays, there wouldn’t be space for the welfare cases,” Ms Gordon said. “But that’s a hard concept for the public to understand, that horses in need aren’t helped by charities.
“If there’s an effective greenyard policy, it details the process and the horses are removed. It reduces the risk of accidents, keeps horses safe, and the owner knows where they are.”
Ms Gordon said horses will be scanned for chips, so the policy is a “safety net” for responsible owners.
But for “serial strayers”, which waste “huge amounts” of police time, the owners will be charged, if traced, for the horses’ collection, and chipping and passporting if necessary, which should deter future straying.
If owners cannot be traced, after 21 days the greenyard provider will rehome the horses.
Ms Gordon, with partners from the National Equine Welfare Council, has been promoting the schemes to forces across the country and sharing best practice
“Police should be doing better things than chasing horses around lanes,” she said. “It costs nothing to have the policy, and for us, it’s about securing horse welfare.”
Kerry Bowen set up Equine Emergency Services 10 years ago to provide greenyard services, for fly-grazing horses as well as those straying on the roads.
She told H&H that in the six months before her service was contracted in the Dudley area, 1,136 calls were made about loose horses on the road. In the next six months, it was 133.
“You can imagine all the police time that was spent on trying to deal with all these horses,” she said. “Officers know what to do now.
“We guarantee a one-hour turnaround. Owners of horses who have genuinely strayed are grateful to know they’re in a safe place, and it prevents accidents so protects horses and people.”
Inspector Dave Smith of Kent Police is the national lead for equine crime. He told H&H before Kent had a greenyard scheme, “we didn’t know what horses we had, or for how long”.
“There was no security for the taxpayers so I said, ‘Let’s manage it,’” he said. “In 2016, before we had the policy, it cost £260,000 to deal with these horses. In 2018 it was £100,000 and this year to November, it was £20,000.”
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