I was saddened to hear that a tethered horse has been found deceased in Harlow today. I have been updated by Harlow Council and I understand that they have contacted the horse’s owner and sent a ranger to stay with the diseased horse whilst they wait for the owner to arrive.
Over the years, I have been in frequent contact with residents about the safety and welfare of the tethered horses around our town.
Whenever incidents are reported to me, I have contacted the RSPCA and either Harlow Council or Essex County Council, depending on whose land the horse is tethered on. The land owner is responsible for taking the necessary action should any of the horses’ welfare be compromised. The RSPCA also have the power to investigate and take action when needed.
I completely sympathise with Harlow residents’ frustrations caused by the lack of response to this situation. When I recenlty contacted Essex County Council about a specific horse welfare issue, they directed me to the RSPCA, and when I contacted the RSPCA, their response was that there were no welfare concerns significant enough to intervene and they directed me back to the local authority.
Just last month, I had contacted the Government’s Animal Welfare Minister detailing concerns about the conditions these horses are kept in and my frustration that no serious action has been taken. I received some information from the Environment Secretary in response.
There is a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids with specific rules that apply to the tethering of horses that should ensure their safety.
A site should not be used for tethering without the written permission of the landowner, in this case Harlow Council and Essex Council, and this permission should include a requirement for the horse owner to abide by these welfare regulations. The Code allows the local authorities to take action when this is not being followed. All welfare issues can also be investigated and prosecuted by the RSPCA.
This situation can’t continue. The welfare of our horses should be paramount. How we treat our animals is the mark of a civilised society. I will continue to press the RSCPA and the Councils on this issue to make sure that something gets done once and for all.
The 2006 ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids’ can be found here – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69389/pb13334-cop-horse-091204.pdf
Below letter sent by Robert Halfon to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 1st March, and a second letter from the Secretary of State in response dated 17th March.