These notes refer to the Control of Horses Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 2 July 2014 [Bill 20]

Explanatory Notes


1. These Explanatory Notes relate to the Control of Horses Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 2 July 2014. They have been prepared by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with the consent of Mr. Julian Sturdy, the member in charge of the Bill, in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on them. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2. The Notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. Where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.

SUMMARY and background

3. The Bill makes provision for local authorities in England to be able to deal more efficiently with fly-grazing horses in public places in their area. The Bill amends the Animals Act 1971 ("the 1971 Act") to give local authorities the power to detain straying horses or those placed intentionally and unlawfully in public places in their area.

4. The Bill introduces a new procedure for local authorities regarding the detention and disposal of such horses. Specifically, it allows horses to be disposed of 96 hours after detention, rather than fourteen days at present, and for disposal to include destruction or any other way (which could include giving it to a charity). Currently detained horses must be sold at a market or an auction, and many have little or no value.

Bill 20-EN


5. Fly-grazing is the placing of horses on someone else’s land to use their grazing. Despite legal requirements for all horses to be identified by a horse passport and a microchip it has become a significant problem in some parts of England and there have been calls for the law to be changed to make it easier for local authorities, to deal with the problem. It has been a problem in Wales and T he Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014 was passed as a consequence.

6. The Bill amends the 1971 Act to provide a power for local authorities to detain such horses in public places, imposes procedural requirements on a horse-owner seeking to claim a detained horse and overall makes the process of detention and disposal of the horse less burdensome for local authorities.

territorial extent and application

7. The 1971 Act extends to England and Wales as a single jurisdiction, and, as such, the Bill that amends the Act extends to both countries. However, the provisions and amendments to the 1971 Act apply only in England. Wales has legislated on fly-grazing separately in T he Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014. The 1971 Act does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Commentary ON CLAUSEs

Clause 1: Powers of local authorities

8. Clause 1 (1) inserts section 7A to the 1971 Act and gives local authorities in England a power to detain horses in public places in their area. Specifically;

a. Section 7A(2) provides that the local authority should have reasonable grounds for believing that the horse is there without lawful authority and if someone is lawfully occupying the public place, that the occupier consents to the local authority detaining the horse or would consent if asked.

b. Section 7A(3) confirms the provisions in relation to the detention of the horse are found in Section 7B.

c. Section 7A(4) defines local authority for this section.

9. Clause 1( 2 ) (a) provides a specific definition of horse which includes an ass, mule or hinny. (A donkey is an ass). Clause 1( 2 ) (c) states that "public place" includes any common land, town or village green and any highway or the verges thereof.

10. Clause 2 inserts section 7B into the 1971 Act to provide specific procedural requirements in relation to horses detained under section 7A of the 1971 Act. The new procedure is a modification of the procedure in section 7.

a. The horse may be detained for a total of 96 hours if notice is given to an officer in charge of a police station within 24 hours of detention and to the horse-owner, if the person detaining the horse knows who the horse-owner is (sections 7B(2) and (3)). The 96-hour period excludes non-working days, namely any time falling on a Saturday, Sunday, Good Friday, Christmas Day and Bank Holidays.

b. The right to detain the horse ceases if, before the end of 96 hours beginning with the time when the horse was first detained, the owner claims the horse and tenders such monies to the local authority detaining it to satisfy any claim the local authority may have under section 4A in respect of the horse (sections 7B(3) and (4)).

c. If at the end of the period of 96 hours under section 7B(3), the right to detain the horse has not ceased, then no-one may subsequently claim the horse who has not already done so. The ownership of the horse passes to the local authority at the end of the 96 hours and the local authority detaining the horse may thereafter dispose of it by selling it, arranging for it to be destroyed or in any other way, including giving it away (section 7B(5)).

d. Where the horse is sold, the excess of the proceeds of the sale is recoverable from the local authority by the former owner of the horse, deducting from this amount the costs of sale and any costs incurred in connection with it, and any expenses incurred in detaining the horse and any claim by the owner or occupier of the public place in respect of any damage caused by the horse (section 7B(6)).

11. Clause 3 inserts section 4A into the 1971 Act, relating to horses in England, and also makes consequential amendments to sections 4, 5 and 10 of the 1971 Act. Section 4A makes provision for liability for expenses arising from the detention of horses in public places in England and any damage they may have caused. It is modelled on the existing section 4.

12. Clause 4 provides the commencement, extent and short title of the Bill.

Prepared 24th October 2014