The Government shares the public's high regard for animal welfare, and we are committed to enhancing our status as a world leader in the protection of animals. The Action Plan for Animal Welfare is an ambitious plan which sets out an overview of the Government's main priorities on animal welfare and conservation. In the action plan, we have committed to ensuring that the equine sector addresses key welfare issues such as racehorse fatality levels.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Anyone who is cruel to an animal faces being sent to prison for up to 5 years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both. The 2006 Act is backed up by the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids which provides owners with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their equines. The Code makes clear that owners are responsible for meeting the horse's need for safe and suitable shelter and pasture, whether this is through a livery yard, rented land or land that they own. The Code can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/700200/horses-welfare-codes-of-practice-april2018.pdf
The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 were developed to help improve welfare standards across a range of activities involving animals that are licensed by local authorities. Under these regulations, hiring out horses in the course of a business for riding or instruction in riding and selling animals as pets in the course of a business are both licensable activities. This includes riding schools, trekking, loan horses, pony parties, hunter hirelings, polo/polocrosse instruction, pony hire, pony and donkey rides.
The Animal Welfare Committee is an expert committee that advises the Department on the welfare of animals. This includes farmed, companion and wild animals kept by people. Please see further details here:
Defra considers that current legislation and guidance provides the right safeguards and powers in respect of protecting horse welfare. We will continue to engage with key stakeholders to see if more can be done to spread best practice among horse owners, as well as increased partnership working with the equine welfare sector in order to tackle equine welfare issues.