Trading Standards Institute Advice

The welfare of horses at markets etc

In the guide

This guidance is for England

The Welfare of Horses at Markets (and Other Places of Sale) Order 1990 makes it an offence to commit certain acts in relation to horses at markets and other places of sale. These include the following:

  • allow unfit horses into a market to be sold, or horses that are likely to give birth
  • cause or permit any injury or unnecessary suffering to a horse
  • fail to ensure that horses are accommodated, handled and treated appropriately
  • bring foals under four months without their dam (or sell without their dam)

All horses must be sold with a valid passport (and be microchipped if born after 1 August 2009).

Unfit horses

No person may permit an unfit horse (which includes a horse, pony, ass, donkey, or mule) to be exposed for sale in a market, or permit a mare to be exposed for sale in a market if it is likely to give birth while it is there.

'Unfit' is defined in the Order as: 'infirm, diseased, ill, injured and fatigued'.

'Market' is defined as: 'a market place, sale-yard, fairground, highway or any other premises or place to which horses are brought from other places and exposed for sale and includes any lairage adjoining a market and used in connection with it and any place adjoining a market used as a parking area by visitors to the market for parking vehicles'.

Protection of horses from injury or unnecessary suffering

No person may cause or permit any injury or unnecessary suffering to a horse in a market.

It is the duty of any person in charge of a horse in a market to ensure that horses are not, or not likely to be, caused suffering by any of the following:

  • the horse being exposed to the weather
  • inadequate ventilation being available for the horse
  • the horse being hit or prodded by any instruments or other thing
  • the horse being tethered in an unsuitable manner
  • any other cause

Handling of horses

No person may handle a horse in a market by either:

  • lifting it off the ground
    ...or
  • dragging it along the ground by the head, neck, ear, leg or tail

No person may obstruct or annoy any horse.

Control of horses

No person may use excessive force to control any horse in a market, nor any instrument that is capable of inflicting an electric shock, to control any horse, or use any stick, crop, whip, goad or other instrument or thing to hit or prod any horse.

No person may drive, ride or lead any horse over any ground or floor that is likely to cause the horse to slip or fall.

Feeding & watering of horses

It is the duty of the person in charge of a horse to ensure that the horse is provided with an adequate quantity of wholesome water as often as is necessary to prevent it suffering from thirst.

Penning of horses

  • horses must be penned separately from other species
  • no horse may be kept in a pen that is unsuitable for its size
  • horses must be penned having regard to their size and age if penned with others
  • tethered and untethered animals must not be kept in the same pens

The following animals must be penned separately from other horses:

  • fractious animals
  • stallions or rigs
  • mares heavily in foal and mares with foals at foot
  • horses whose hind feet are shod

Transport of horses to and from sale

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and EU Regulation (EC) 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations may apply to the transport of your horse to and from the sale. More information is available in 'Transporting horses by road'.

Sale of foals (animals under the age of four months)

  • no foal may be brought to a market unless it is at the foot of its dam
  • no foal may be sold or offered for sale separately to its dam
  • no person may separate a foal from its dam while awaiting sale, or awaiting collection after sale, at the market

Clipped horses

No person may keep any clipped horse at the market that, as a result of being clipped, is insufficiently protected against the weather by its natural coat unless it is kept in covered accommodation or provided with suitable protective equipment.

Horse passports

Under EU Regulation (EU) 2015/262 laying down rules pursuant to Directives 90/427/EEC and 2009/156/EC as regards the methods for the identification of equidae (Equine Passport Regulation) no person may sell a horse without a passport. On the sale of a horse, the seller must give the passport to the buyer; at auction sales the seller must give the passport to the auctioneer who then must give the passport to the buyer. The buyer must register the new ownership within 30 days.

Passports must be applied for within six months of birth or within the calendar year in which the horse is born, whichever is later. A foal not yet meeting these time limits may be moved at the foot of its dam without a passport and may therefore be sold without a passport; however, auctioneers may require a passport to meet their own conditions so you should check before moving your horses to an auction.

See 'Horse passports' for more information.

Food chain information

It is necessary for anyone sending an equine for slaughter for human consumption to provide a food chain information (FCI) document to the slaughterhouse operator. This requirement helps to control equines that have been treated with a veterinary medicinal product from entering the food chain. More information on FCI and equines for slaughter for human consumption can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Prevention of harm

It is an offence to cause a horse any unnecessary suffering, either by acting in a manner that causes the animal suffering or by failing to act, which causes suffering. This includes where somebody knew or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so.

Duty of care

A person must take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure the needs of a horse for which they are responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

A horse's needs include:

  • a suitable environment
  • a suitable diet
  • be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • being housed with or apart from other animals
  • protection from pain, suffering, injury, and disease

Penalties

Failure to comply with this legislation is an offence; the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Instead of (or in addition to) this the courts may disqualify a person from owning animals, keeping animals, participating in the keeping of animals, and from being party to an arrangement under which they are entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: January 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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