New laws to clamp down on people illegally abandoning horses has received Royal Assent, improving horse welfare standards across the country.

The Control of Horses Act will bring in legislative changes to help deter people from illegally grazing or simply abandoning horses on public and private land, known as ‘fly-grazing’.

The changes, which become law on 26 May, mean horse owners who 'fly-graze' their animals without permission can now be dealt with more quickly and effectively.

The new Act, which has been welcomed by animal welfare charities, local authorities, and landowners, was brought forward as a Private Member’s Bill by Julian Sturdy MP and supported by the Government throughout its passage through Parliament.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said:

“The new law represents a huge step forward in getting owners to pay proper attention to their horses’ welfare, while also helping ensure local communities aren’t blighted by fly-grazing.

 “We are grateful for the widespread support for the changes from across the equine sector and animal welfare groups, which has made this possible.”

Animal welfare groups estimate that there are over 3,000 horses illegally fly-grazing in this country.

Under the previous Animals Act 1971 an abandoned horse could only be disposed of through sale at market or public auction.  The new law extends the options for dealing with abandoned horses, which now include private sale, gifting and rehoming.

The changes also allow local authorities and private owners and occupiers of land to deal with abandoned horses more quickly – within four working days, instead of fourteen days, as the 1971 law currently requires.