Court rulings tackle flygrazing in a first for Britain

eye-stockAn English council has successfully obtained anti-social behaviour orders from a court against two people over the flygrazing of horses,  in what is believed to be a first in Britain.

The South Gloucestershire Council said the orders were served on Edward and Connie Mullane, of Northwood Park, Winterbourne, during a hearing in Yate Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Flygrazing is unauthorised grazing of horses without the permission of the landowner. It has become a growing problem across Britain, fuelled by rising levels of neglect.

The council said it was aware of flygrazing taking place mainly in Severnside, South Gloucestershire.

It said “overwhelming evidence” was collated from a wide range of agencies, including the police, charities Horseworld and the RSPCA, and Network Rail, which it said demonstrated the extent of the issue and the impact flygrazing had on communities.

Although the order relates to locations in South Gloucestershire, magistrates extended the conditions of the order to cover England and Wales. This is believed to be the first time a full anti-social behaviour order has been granted to deal with flygrazing.

Under the orders, granted for five years, the Mullanes are not permitted to:

  • Keep or be in possession or control of any horse that is diseased, injured or malnourished or otherwise left unfit through neglect or intentional action;
  • Cause or permit any horse within their possession or care or control to stray onto the public highway;
  • Cause or permit any horse within their possession or care or control to enter or remain on land without the prior agreement of the landowner;
  • Sell or transfer ownership of any horse which is not correctly identified by a valid passport;
  • Enter the areas designated on a map attached to the order.

Councillor Claire Young, who chairs the council’s Communities Committee, said: “Illegal flygrazing causes distress to animals, danger to residents and road users, and unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

“We have worked closely with the police and other agencies to bring this case to court and we are pleased with the outcome which clearly shows that this type of dangerous and anti-social activity will not be tolerated in South Gloucestershire.”

Community safety team leader Philippa Isbell said: “This is an excellent result for the residents of South Gloucestershire; and a positive example of the council working in partnership with other agencies and our communities to find a solution to deal with the problem of illegal flygrazing.

“We will continue to work with the police to monitor cases of flygrazing in the district and will not hesitate to bring further prosecutions if necessary.”

Neighbourhood Inspector Bob Evely, of Avon and Somerset Police, said flygrazing was not a victimless problem.

“As well as the animal welfare issue, there are the public safety risks of horses straying onto the highway or railway, damage to landlords’ fences and property, and the pressure it places on the resources of the police, fire and rescue service and animal welfare charities.

“In the 18 months prior to July 2013 the police alone received more than 2000 calls relating to flygrazing.

“Police and charities like Horseworld and the RSPCA collected evidence over 18 months and worked very closely with South Gloucestershire Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team to support this application.

“We have also been talking to the Mullanes themselves to make clear the issues caused by their behaviour and have already started to see an improvement in the situation, reflected in that they did not contest this order. I hope this will give the community the reassurance that we will not tolerate this sort of activity.”

The chief inspector of the RSPCA and witness John Atkinson said that his inspectors were reduced to tears due to the state and condition of the horses.

Horseworld’s equine welfare director, Jerry Watkins, said: “The cost of staff time, animal transportation, livery, veterinary nursing, fees and so on that has been expended over the years in the hope of reducing suffering or the risk of suffering tallies to several thousands of pounds.”

Breaching the court order is a criminal offence which could result in a fine or custodial sentence of up to five years.


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