Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.  
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Joint action to tackle Fly Grazing
Landowners, councils, police and charities met recently to discuss what needs to be done in Hertfordshire to implement new fly grazing legislation (the Control of Horses Act 2015) to improve animal welfare and reduce traffic incidents.
 
Representatives from several agencies, including the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, National Farmers’ Union and British Horse Society (BHS), heard how evidence shows that not tackling the issue proactively leads to more horses left to graze on other people’s land without permission, also known as fly grazing.
 
Fly grazing is associated with animal welfare issues, including indiscriminate breeding, cruelty and neglect; and road traffic incidents, as a result of loose horses on highways, as well as damage to land. 
 
Fly grazed horses become the automatic legal responsibility of the land owner but new legislation allows for land owners to take action sooner, once registered with police, and to remove the animals themselves, which could include selling them or handing over to a charity.
 
At Police Headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, the 36 participants heard about experiences in Kent where they hold daily police and partner meetings, provide information directly to land owners and took initial preventative, proactive enforcement work to tackle fly grazing.  The calls to Kent Police about loose and fly grazed horses reduced from 400 to zero within a few months as a result.
 
The group also discussed the hope of a national fund being set up to help tackle fly grazing, introducing Fixed Penalty Notices for offenders and the difficulties of re-homing unclaimed horses when charities are already inundated with neglected and abandoned animals.
 
Hertfordshire County Council is now working on a countywide fly-grazing protocol and a further meeting is planned in the Spring to discuss progress.
 
Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said: “Anti-social behaviour, road safety, rural issues and partnership working are four areas that I believe are vital to the quality of life for Hertfordshire residents and businesses. Fly grazing is a scourge that affects several areas of the county and, if not tackled, could worsen. That’s why I am keen to see this group go forward, and to use this recent legislation to maximum effect.”
 
Richard Thake, Hertfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety (pictured centre), said: “Fly grazing is an unacceptable practice. Animal welfare is an immense concern, as is the potential for wandering animals to cause death, or injury on the roads. We look to encourage responsible ownership of animals and are always happy to advise owners on looking after their livestock properly but, if our advice is ignored, we will not hesitate to join with our partners, the police and the animal welfare organisations to take appropriate action where it is needed.”
 
Insp Duncan Grieves (pictured second left), who is the Constabulary expert on loose horses, said: “Police in Hertfordshire deal with an average of 13 calls a month about loose horses on highways. Last year in October alone there were 20 calls. Loose large animals obviously pose a real danger to motorists so we have to deal with these calls as a matter of urgency.  Anything we can do to reduce the number of incidents is a positive move and will free up officers to deal with crime and proactive operations.”
 
Landowners in Hertfordshire who find their land encroached by horses that they do not own, and do not know who the owners are, are advised to register this with the police, using 101 or email to fcrenquiries@herts.pnn.police.uk and then seek legal advice about removing the animals.  Advice can also be found at www.hertsdirect.org or the BHS and various horse/animal charity websites.  You must ensure the animals have free access to fresh water and grass or hay while they remain on your property. Horses found straying on main roads should be reported as an emergency on 999.
 
Measures to prevent fly grazing include secure fencing around vulnerable areas (for example grassland with easy public access) and putting up warning notices that action will be taken against fly grazing.