Responsible ownership focus of Britain’s new equine Code of Practice

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The new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids has been updated to reflect latest research and developments in equine management. It sets out requirements for all aspects of responsible ownership.
The new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids has been updated to reflect latest research and developments in equine management. It sets out requirements for all aspects of responsible ownership. © World Horse Welfare

Britain’s new equine Code of Practice has been welcomed by an international charity, calling it “a significant step for equine welfare in England”. 

The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids was published on April 6. It sets out minimum standards that should be met by anyone caring for an equine in England.

In applauding the new Code, World Horse Welfare’s CEO Roly Owers noted that it set out the minimum standards that constitute and define responsible ownership, and provided a useful reference guide for horse owners and carers from all areas of the equine sector.

“Although it cannot be used to bring about a prosecution, this statutory Code is an important resource for enforcers and welfare charities which offers clear guidance and education as well as assisting Courts of Law to enforce welfare offences and hold irresponsible owners to account,” Owers said.

Collated in partnership between Defra and the British Horse Council (of which World Horse Welfare is a member), the Code covers all aspects of physical wellbeing including what constitutes a suitable environment for a horse, ensuring their nutritional needs are met, protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease, end-of-life planning and duty of care. In addition, the Code also sets out requirements for ensuring horse’s behavioural and companionship needs are met.

The Code covers all aspects of physical wellbeing including what constitutes a suitable environment for a horse.
The Code covers all aspects of physical wellbeing including what constitutes a suitable environment for a horse. © World Horse Welfare

Whilst the Code is not a legally binding document, it does mean that if proceedings are brought against a horse owner under the Animal Welfare Act, the Court will look at whether or not the owner has complied with the Code in deciding whether or not an offence has been committed.

The Code, which has been updated to reflect latest research and developments in equine management,  sets out requirements for all aspects of responsible ownership, providing a fundamental resource to help horse owners and carers ensure their animal’s welfare is safeguarded.

“The updated Code is similar to guidance in other countries which set out good practice in equine welfare and we look forward to progressing a European-wide version as part of the EU Animal Welfare Platform’s Equine Sub Group,” Owers said.

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