The new law called the Control of Horses Act 2015, aims to deter people from illegally grazing or abandoning horses on public and private land, which is known as ‘fly-grazing’.
As many as 3,000 horses are thought to be illegally fly-grazing across the country.
The changes mean horse owners who fly-graze their animals without permission can now be dealt with more quickly and effectively.
Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice said: “These changes to the law will give rural communities greater powers to deal with thousands of horses that are left to graze illegally without the landowners’ permission.
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“Horses that are left to fly-graze can now be rehomed much more quickly and effectively, improving the welfare of these animals and preventing disruption to communities.
“By allowing abandoned horses to be rehomed much more quickly, this act will encourage owners to pay proper attention to their animals’ welfare and ensure communities are no longer blighted by the illegal practice of fly-grazing.”
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Henry Robinson said: “We pressed for this new law so that farmers and landowners can act for swift resolution when faced with the problem of horses illegally abandoned on their land.
“Fly-grazed horses can damage land, crops and fencing, restrict space for livestock and cost money to provide for their welfare and safety.
Under the previous Animals Act 1971 an abandoned horse could only be disposed of after 14 days through sale at market or public auction.
The new Act means fly-grazing horses have to be reported to police within 24 hours, and owners now have four days to claim their animals.