Legislation - The Animals Act 1971 / Control of Horses Act 2015
This is civil legislation – it is not a statutory duty for councils therefore the Council has NO obligation to be involved if the issue is in relation to stray animals on Private Land.
If the animals are on the Highway then the Police should be informed by calling either 999 or 101 dependent upon the severity of the situation (on a busy main road). Do not deliberately let animals out onto the road, this is a road traffic offence.
Private Landowners must follow the legislation to enable the removal of the animals:
- Contact the Police on 101 within 48 hrs to log the animals being on the land without lawful authority (permission). An incident number will be issued and the land owner needs to note this down. From this point the time limit by which the animals may be lawfully removed will begin. If someone has reported animals lost or stolen the police can match up the lost report with the stray animals found.
- Make all reasonable enquiries to trace the owner and knock on local doors and place notices on the gateway, and locally where possible, with a description of the animals/time, date found/details to contact for the owner/date by which the owner MUST claim the animals. If the animals have tags the local authority can help trace the owner.
- The time limit, as set out by the above legislation is 14 days. For horses specifically the time limit is 96 hours (4 days but NOT including weekends/bank holidays).
- The landowner now has responsibility for the welfare of the animals on their land and must ensure their welfare is upheld. Any costs/actions such as feed, water and veterinary attention by the landowner must be recorded in case of claims by the “owner” – the legislation gives the landowner the right to claim any costs incurred from the “owner”.
- Once the end date of the 14 day period has been reached and no owner has come forward to claim the animals then ownership of the animals changes to the landowner. This means that the landowner is now the owner, the animals must be sold at “public auction”, such as your local livestock market. If an owner does come forward, they should prove ownership. For Horses, the outlets are greater, they can be sold privately, re homed with a charity etc.
- If you have a holding number and are familiar with livestock already you should observe any disease control standstill periods, welfare of animals in transport and report any moves via the appropriate method, record details in your respective farm movement register, and identify the animals using your flock / herd mark if pigs or sheep & goats. If you have a horse, you will have to apply for a horse passport. If it is a bovine it should already have an individual identification tag, which will easily trace the owner. If a stray bovine is unidentified or if you are not familiar with livestock, please contact this service for further advice.