Skip to content
Do It Online   |  Planning   |  Council tax   |  Bins and recycling   |  Parking and roads   |  Housing

We are currently updating our payment system. You may notice some changes in the forms that you use to pay for things like licences and your council tax. If you have any questions, please contact our customer services team.

Contact Customer Services

Illegally Grazed Horses

Do it online

Advice to horse owners and the public 

In an emergency call RSPCA on 0300 1234 999

Swale Borough Council sometimes receives reports about abandoned and illegally grazed horses on open spaces across the borough mostly from members of the public that are concerned about their welfare, particularly in the winter when land becomes waterlogged and when it is very cold. The council also receives calls from land owners who have had horses abandoned on their land.

We have been working closely with the RSPCA, other animal rescue charities, conservation groups, Kent County Council (KCC) and Kent Police over illegal grazing and welfare concerns. 

Steps to get a horse removed from private land
Under provisions contained within the Animals Act 1971 as amended by Control of Horses Act 2015 there are a number of steps that can be followed to get horses removed from your land when they have been placed there without permission. The steps include:
Report the horse(s) that have been placed on your land to the Police. This needs to be done within 24 hours
Put up an abandonment notice(s) on the land advising the owner they have 4 working days in which to remove their horse(s). This notice also gives others the opportunity to pass on any information they have on the owner of the horse(s). Abandonment Notice[pdf] 176KB
If nobody comes forward after 4 working days the landowner can arrange for the horse(s) to be removed (there are a number of horse rescue charities and rehoming organisation that are able to give advice on this)
For advice on how to prevent fly-grazing and horse abandonment, as well as advice on how to deal with a horse on your land, please visit the Redwings Sanctuary website. This includes what you should do if an owner does come forward.

What is illegal grazing?

Illegal grazing of horses is the practice of placing a horse or horses on someone’s land without the permission of the landowner. This takes place on both privately owned land and public land. The horses are sometimes tethered on grass verges or left to roam on fields or green spaces.

Where the council is informed of a horse that has been abandoned on privately owned land, an attempt is made to contract the land owner in order to make sure they are aware of the situation and give advice on how to get the horse removed. Landowners actually become responsible for the care of the horse even if they have not given permission for them to be on their land. Landowners also become liable in the event of an accident or injury caused by the horses.

Why is it a problem?

There are several concerns surrounding illegally grazed horse including animal welfare and safety.  Find out what to do if you discover a n abandoned or dead horse.

Animal Welfare.

At first glance the problems associated with illegal grazing may not be obvious. Many horses are in kept outside all year and the majority cope well even in winter weather as long as they have access to the basic requirements of food, water and shelter (this can be natural or man-made). 

Horses have a naturally waterproof coat and a central heating system from digesting food and they enjoying being outside doing horsey things (including a good old roll in the paddock) and therefore during the winter months they can at times end up looking muddy and un-groomed. Not all horses will be rugged; those that are able to cope well in cold temperatures may become too warm if rugged, however, older horses, working (ridden) clipped horses and those with health issues are usually rugged. In the warm summer months they will need access to shade, fresh grass, any additional feed and water. In situations where the grazing is poor then supplementary feed, i.e. hay, should be available. Many times if the horse is not underweight it would suggest that the horse is getting enough food.

Illegally grazed horses may not receive the attention they need when they are injured or ill. Such horses can lack the basic need of a good worming programme, which if left untreated, is on many occasions fatal.

Safety.

The land maybe close to busy roads such as the A249 or in residential areas with high volumes of traffic. There is a clear risk that the horses could stray onto the road and be hit by a car with potentially fatal consequences for both the horse and driver. Horses that feel threatened can kick or bite passers-by when they are approached. There have also been occasions where members of the public have been threatened by horse owners.

Damage to land and conservation areas.

Illegally grazed horses can damage the land or in conservation areas disrupt sensitive ecological habitats.

Steps to get a horse removed from private land

Under provisions contained within the Animals Act 1971 as amended by Control of Horses Act 2015 there are a number of steps that can be followed to get horses removed from your land when they have been placed there without permission. The steps include:

Report the horse(s) that have been placed on your land to the Police. This needs to be done within 24 hours

Put up an abandonment notice(s) on the land advising the owner they have 4 working days in which to remove their horse(s). This notice also gives others the opportunity to pass on any information they have on the owner of the horse(s). To download and Abandonment Notice, click download Abandonment Notice ( pdf 176KB )

If nobody comes forward after 4 working days the landowner can arrange for the horse(s) to be removed (there are a number of horse rescue charities and rehoming organisation that are able to give advice on this)

For advice on how to prevent fly-grazing and horse abandonment, as well as advice on how to deal with a horse on your land, please visit the Redwings Sanctuary website. This includes what you should do if an owner does come forward.

What to do if you find an abandoned or dead horse.

If you come across an abandoned dead horse on private land you should contact KCC’s Trading Standards at their East Kent Office on 03000 41 20 20 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email csu@swale.gov.uk. Out-of-hours you will need to call the contact centre on 03000 41 41 41.

If the horse in on the highway then contact KCC Highways and Transportation on 03000 41 41 41

Where can I find more information?

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have produced a code of practice for the welfare of horses and ponies. This explains the duty of care for those who are responsible for horses and give guidance on how to provide for a horse’s need as laid down by the Animal Welfare Act.

What can I do in an emergency?

If it is an emergency situation e.g. the horse is sick, injured or at immediate risk of danger telephone the RSPCA hotline on 0300 1234 999. You will need to give as much detail as possible and this should include their location and any access issues. Welfare conditions can also be reported to the World Horse Welfare Hotline 08000 480 180 and British Horse Society on 02476 840517.

Further reading and useful links.

 

Feedback form:
Was this information helpful?
Thanks for letting us know your views!
This feedback will be used to improve our online service. We cannot respond to specific requests.
Yes
It's good but
No  
How can we make this section better?
A to Z of Services :
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z