23/09/2010 Animal Welfare Act is "A Significant Improvement " for Safeguarding Equine Welfare

A review led by The Horse Trust, on behalf of the equine sector, has found that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is "significant improvement on previous legislation", but some changes are required "for the Act to be fully effective".

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commissioned The Horse Trust to conduct a review of the effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act in relation to equines. Following consultation with various organisations in the equine sector*, The Horse Trust produced a report, which was submitted to Defra at the end of August and will form part of the post-legislative scrutiny process.

"The Act is a significant improvement on previous legislation and now enables inspectors to be much more proactive when dealing with welfare concerns. On the whole, enforcement of the Act is working well however there are some areas that require amendment or clarification for the Act to be fully effective," states the report titled Post-Legislative Assessment of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - An equine perspective.

Liane Crowther, The Horse Trust's Welfare and Education Officer and one of the co-authors of the report, said: "This report underlines the value of Animal Welfare Act and how it has helped improve the welfare of horses across the UK. We hope that the government will take note of the recommendations outlined in the report to make it easier to enforce the Act and close any loopholes for offenders."

Various improvements were listed in the report, including stronger powers to deal with non-compliant horse owners, a suggested change in sentencing guidelines, and the need to increase awareness amongst owners, keepers and equine businesses about their responsibilities under the Act.

The Animal Welfare Act introduced more flexibility in sentencing the worst offenders, allowing for higher fines and other penalties. However, the report states that in some cases the use of additional penalties, such as community service, has resulted in shorter deprivation and disqualification orders.

The report called for deprivation and disqualification orders to be prioritised over other penalties as these are of greater use in safeguarding welfare.

The Post-Legislative Assessment of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - An equine perspective report was prepared by Paul Jepson and Liane Crowther of The Horse Trust. The Animal Welfare Act received Royal Assent on 8th November 2006 and came into force on 6th April 2007 in England and on the 27th March 2007 in Wales.

• The following organsiations were consulted in the production of the report: The Horse Trust, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, British Equine Veterinary Association, Wrexham Trading Standards, National Equine Welfare Council, British Horseracing Authority, British Horse Industry Confederation, British Equestrian Federation, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, Horseworld, The Blue Cross, Bransby Home of Rest for Horses, The Donkey Sanctuary, British Horse Society, Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, Horse and Pony Protection Association and Horse Rescue Fund. DEFRA will publish their post legislative review of the Animal Welfare Act at the end of the year.