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Horses: Animal Welfare

Volume 494: debated on Monday 22 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent assessment he has made of the standard of the welfare of (a) horses and (b) racehorses; and if he will make a statement; (278285)

(2) if he will undertake an assessment of the welfare of racehorses, including levels of death and injury; and if he will bring forward proposals to improve their welfare.

[holding answer given 9 June 2009]: All kept horses are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (“the Act”) which requires owners and keepers to provide for the welfare needs of their animals.

To make owners and keepers more aware of their responsibilities under the Act, DEFRA is preparing a code of practice for the care of horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids. Once this is finalised it will be approved by Parliament before being published.

There are no proposals to undertake a welfare assessment of racehorses. Racehorses are protected by the Act which makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal. In addition, under the Act, it is an offence to fail to provide for the welfare needs of an animal for which owners are responsible.

Anyone can take forward a prosecution under the Act if they consider they have evidence of cruelty or poor welfare, or they can report it to the appropriate authorities, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.