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Non-payment of livery yard payments – can horses be removed?

Q. I own a small livery yard.  One of the liveries is significantly behind with their payments.  I have asked them to remove their horse but they have failed to do so.  Can I remove the horse?

A. The first thing to mention is that livery yard owners and landowners generally have various legal responsibilities when horses are left on their land.  These responsibilities include welfare.

An offence may be committed where a person causes unnecessary suffering to an animal and where they fail to take reasonable steps to meet the horses’ basic needs.  DEFRA has produced a useful code of practice for the welfare of horses and ponies – the Court may make reference to this code when deciding whether the landowner has committed an offence.

There are various ways in which a landowner may remove a horse from their land. 

These include the following:

  • To detain and dispose of the horse under the Animals Act 1971 – these powers were introduced by the Control of Horses Act 2015.
  • To remove the horse pursuant to the terms of an existing agreement with the horse owner e.g. livery agreement
  • To instruct a horse bailiff to remove the horse
  • To issue court proceedings to obtain an injunction requiring the owner to remove their horse.

The Court procedure is likely to be the more costly and less efficient option.

If the procedure introduced by the Control of Horses Act 2015 is to be followed there are a series of specific steps that must be taken to ensure compliance and to avoid any further liability to the horse owner.

These steps include (but are not limited to) notifying the owner of the horse (if known) together with the officer in charge of a police station. If the horse owner does not claim the horse within four working days following the horse being initially detained and pay for any damage incurred to land or property by the horse together with any expenses reasonably incurred in keeping the horse, ownership will then pass to the detainer.

The person detaining the horse will then be free to dispose of the horse by sale, arranging for their destruction or in any other way (including gifting the horse to a welfare sanctuary or charity).  Where the horse is to be sold and it does not have a passport or a microchip, these should be arranged before the sale takes place in order to comply with the Horse Passport Regulations 2009.

For information on this or any other equine legal issue, please contact Caroline Bowler on 0115 9 100 237 or send her an email.

Posted on March 23, 2016

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