The charity World Horse Welfare wants equine rescue centres and sanctuaries to be licensed across Britain to ensure reasonable standards are met.
The Norfolk-based organisation notes that there is currently no specific legislation in Britain to ensure that rescue centres and sanctuaries meet any minimum standards.
While Scotland has consulted on the licensing question and promised to introduce legislation in the near future, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have failed to make the same commitment.
“While most rescue centres and sanctuaries will have been set-up by people who have the expertise and resources needed to properly care for and rehabilitate these animals, no-one is checking that this is the case,” the charity says.
“Those equines that are fortunate enough to be taken in by these organisations often are at their most vulnerable and the licensing of these centres will ensure that they are given the protection they deserve.”
Currently, rescue centres and sanctuaries can become members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), which conducts site visits to approve membership and offers education and support to help ensure organisations meet minimum welfare requirements.
However, this is on a voluntary basis and not all rescue centres and sanctuaries have signed up.
“We therefore want to see the licensing of rescue centres and sanctuaries required in law with standards set-out in supporting guidance – in the UK, these should be based on the Codes of Practice and the NEWC standards,” it said in a statement.
“Our intent is not to close down those dedicated organisations that strive to offer vulnerable horses a better future, but to ensure clear guidance is available on how they can best protect the welfare of their horses.
“However, in those circumstances where welfare is compromised, it would also allow for this to be established more easily and action to be taken.”
It is urging the public to help it build a case for the licensing of equine rescue centres and sanctuaries by responding to a survey.