Horses: Animal Welfare

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 10th December 2021.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has to bring forward legislative proposals to ban the practice of horse tethering.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if his Department will introduce measures to ensure that a person is not permitted to keep an animal where the only method of doing so is through the use of a tether.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This Government is committed to upholding our high standards of animal welfare, including in relation to tethering. The welfare of all animals is protected by comprehensive and robust animal health and welfare legislation. Defra has a series of statutory animal welfare codes, which encourage high standards of husbandry.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the Act) makes it an offence either to cause any captive animal unnecessary suffering or to fail to provide for the welfare needs of the animal. The Act is backed up by farmed animal welfare legislation which includes a prohibition on tethers for certain farmed species. All owners and keepers of animals must provide for the welfare needs of their animals.

Tethering can be a useful temporary management tool when it is used appropriately. The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids (the Code) provides owners and keepers with general welfare information, including a specific section on the tethering of a horse and other animals. The Code states that tethering is not a suitable method of long-term management of an animal, but may be useful as an exceptional short-term method of animal management.

If anyone is concerned about the way a horse or other animal has been tethered, they should report the matter to the relevant local authority, the RSPCA or World Horse Welfare who can investigate. If a horse or other animal is found not to be tethered appropriately, it could lead to a prosecution under the 2006 Act.

Defra considers that the current legislation and guidance provide the right safeguards and powers in respect of animal tethering. However, we will continue to engage with key stakeholders to see if more can be done to promote best practice among horse owners and to optimise partnership working to tackle the issue of inappropriate horse tethering. With the current Animal (Penalty Notice) Bill passing through the parliamentary process we are keen to work with key stakeholders to consider if the use of financial penalty notices will help redirect offenders away from the inappropriate use of tethering.

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