Licensing fly-grazing could help horses and people *H&H Plus*

  • Councils have been introducing licences to give fly-grazed horses a safe place, prevent accidents and save taxpayers’ money. H&H speaks to authorities and welfare experts to find out more

    LICENCES are being used to mean “fly-grazed” horses are officially allowed on council land.

    The move has been made by a number of local authorities in England to tackle the problems caused by both loose and tethered horses being grazed illegally.

    A scrutiny review of fly-grazing published last month by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council revealed it had once spent up to £30,000 a year tackling the problem, but that in recent years budget cuts had removed funding. Removal of a horse by equine bailiffs costs around £1,000 per incident.

    The licensing schemes have the advantage of providing horses and ponies, who may otherwise stray into roads or towards other hazards, with a safe and supervised space, as well as creating a channel to enforce their owners’ legal obligations.

    Wakefield Council piloted a scheme 10 years ago to introduce grazing and tethering licences for “problem areas” of land at Heath and Warmfield commons.

    The council has 40 pitches available at a annual charge of £10 to £20 per “peg”.

    Gary Blenkinsop, Wakefield Council’s service director for environment and Streetscene, told H&H: “Although the majority of horse owners in our district are very responsible owners who take a great deal of care of their horses and ponies, we were having problems with a large number of horses being fly-grazed in our district generally.”

    He said that not only did the initiative allow the number of horses grazing to be regulated, but it also meant authorities could ensure that horses were passported and microchipped.

    “An agreed number of horses can now graze on the land and the policy has been well received and proven very effective,” he said.

    “The council continues to enforce the licences by removing any horse found grazing without a licence.”

    In Dudley, eight loose-grazing sites have been established. Annual licences cost £455 per year, with each horse designated one acre.

    A spokesman for World Horse Welfare said the charity fully supports the idea, providing councils are able to offer suitable land, can impose mandatory microchipping and identification and are able to ensure there is provision of food, water and welfare checks.

    “Once the horses are on land with the permission of the landowner, they are not fly-grazing, so this would reduce the significant financial impact on councils and taxpayers of dealing with fly-grazed animals,” the spokesman told H&H.

    “We have seen licensed grazing in action in some councils and while no system is perfect, it can make a significant improvement for the horses.

    “We have provided guidance to local authorities who have been considering this solution and 
we encourage others to take the same action.”

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