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Fly-grazing is a serious animal welfare problem. I am aware that the Animal Welfare Act (2006) can already be used to prosecute someone for fly-grazing. This is because the legislation states that it is against the law to be cruel to an animal. This means that it is illegal for an owner or a keeper to fail to ensure that their horse or horses have an adequate diet and are protected from pain or injury. Furthermore, this legislation is reinforced by the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids. Although failure to abide by the code is not in itself an offence, it can be used in a court of law as evidence of neglect, and frequently is.

However, in my view, while the Animal Welfare Act is useful it is not the whole solution to the problem of fly-grazing. This is why I welcome the further steps that Ministers are taking to get to grips with this anti-social behaviour. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is currently before Parliament and, I am assured, when it is enacted, it will provide enforcers with new and much more flexible powers to tackle antisocial behaviour in all its forms, including fly-grazing.

For example, if a person is identified as having left their horse on someone else's land without permission, the local authority or police could issue a community protection notice requiring the individual to remove or even to sell the horses concerned. Failure to abide by a community protection notice is a criminal offence, and anyone who does so may face a fine or other sanctions. These provisions also give the authorities power to impose a forfeiture order on any item, to force an owner to give up a horse they have fly-grazed.

However, I am informed that are no plans to go down the same legislative route as the Welsh Government. The most practical solution to this lies in tackling local issues through effective use of existing and forthcoming legislation. In my view this is a robust and positive response to the problem of fly-grazing.

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