Landowners are being warned to be vigilant due to the rise in abandoned horses caused by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Equine charities and landowners have reported a significant rise in the number of abandoned horses and ponies over the past decade, with the pandemic likely to make things worse as owners struggle to afford to keep them.
However, landowners who find horses on their property could end up facing prosecution if they do not take the right steps to make sure that they are removed in the proper manner.
Miss Gough, partner in the Agriculture and Rural Affairs division at mfg Solicitors, said: “If someone finds horses on their land that have just been left there, the first thing to do is try to find who they belong to and contact the owners to say they need to be removed.
“If the owner cannot be found and the animals appear in good health then the next call is to the local council, which has the power to get them removed. If they don’t look well, then it’s the RSPCA that needs to be contacted.
“The most important thing to understand is that it is the landowners legal duty to ensure the wellbeing of the horses whilst they are on their land, such as making sure they have water. It is illegal to drive them off the land and onto the highway as you will be prosecuted if you’re found to have done so.
“Things become more complex if the horses were originally on the land due to an agreement between the owner of the animals and the landowner. Appropriate notices will need to be served on the owner of the horses if their whereabouts are known. With regards the removal of the animals, proper procedures must be followed.”
The RSPCA warned that equine charities were facing a “perfect storm” as the economy has worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning a loss of funding.
Landowners who want advice on their rights, responsibilities and the removal of abandoned horses, can contact Helen on Helen.Gough@mfgsolicitors.com or call 0845 55 55 321.