For a copy of the Control of Horses Act 2015 please see here.
Tethering of horses in the UK
There are 1.35 million horses in the UK with the largest proportion in the South East – where we have some 310,500 horses. The majority of these horses live a much loved and pampered life but sadly we still witness too much cruelty or suffering including many horses tethered without food or water in sub zero temperatures or searing heat, old horses left in fields in poor condition and cases of cruelty, sometimes just through ignorance.
Of the estimated 1.35 million horses and ponies in England and Wales an estimated 2% are tethered which equals 27, 000. That’s a lot of horses potentially suffering each day!
UNDERSTANDING THE HORSE – THE RIGHT TO A NATURAL LIFE
Equines have evolved as flight animals. Their instinct tells them to flee from danger.
Equines are herd animals and learn social skills from interacting with each other and respecting the hierarchy. For a foal to develop, it must have freedom to race around, to practice its balance and to learn how to stop – this is vital for skeletal and lung growth.
A foal needs its mother to teach it about dangers and it needs other equines to learn to play and to learn what is acceptable and what will or will not be tolerated in the herd
Equines are very gregarious animals who like to live in their herd structure where they make life time bonds. They enjoy each other’s company, they have a highly developed social structure and therefore need others of their own kind to express normal behaviour such as social grooming and standing head to tail to keep the flies out of their eyes.
Equines have evolved over the years to eat on the move and their digestive system is designed to work in this way. The digestion of a horse is designed for working on the move, to deprive them of this natural process by tethering permanently is a major cause of colic and other painful abdominal problems which result in severe pain and an agonising death in many cases.
Equines kept on tethering chains are restricted all the time and have little, if any contact with anything other than cars or people and will never experience these types of relationships and will live out their lives in a totally unnatural, highly stressful way.
Horses tethered have no opportunity to seek shelter or food and water; they are totally dependant on their owners, unable to forage for themselves. They are exposed to freezing conditions, excessive heat, rain and wind with no possibility of protecting themselves, this is totally against everything that a horse would do if kept normally.
Many horses are tethered close to roads on grass verges, totally unsuited for the purpose, bringing the animals into close proximity with traffic; many animals are hit and killed, also resulting in injury or possibly death or injury to the drivers of vehicles.
They are subject to all weather conditions – we have watched horses stood all day in pouring rain without shelter, horses stood all day in searing heat without shelter or access to water, horses stood all day in sub zero temperatures without shelter or food. Horses guts are designed to graze – eat little and often. When a horse eats fibre the food moves to the hind gut which effectively acts like a furnace and warms the animal up from inside out – this function is denied to these animals.
These equines often get caught up in their chains – causing sores, cuts or distress or worse. We have dealt with horses that have had broken legs or necks on the tethering chain and some that have died.
They are left for hours without food or water – sometimes only get a drink and food brought to them once a day. Some are not even that lucky!
They are open to interference from humans and dogs and indeed are very vulnerable around November 5th when they are at risk from fireworks.
They are often illegally tethered on someone else’s land.
They often give birth on chains and the foals are soon tethered preventing them from building up vital muscle.
As horse owners we are taught that we should never leave a horse tied up unsupervised– yet these animals are tethered every day and rarely checked.
The RSPCA’s five freedoms clearly state that Animals should have Freedom from
• Hunger and thirst
• Freedom from discomfort
• Freedom from Pain and disease
• Freedom to persue normal behaviour
• Freedom from fear and distress
Animals that are permanently tethered are denied not some but all of these freedoms there is no protection for them at all. Many are on tethering chains for their entire lives, mares are forced to give birth while tethered, this poses enormous risks to them and their foals, as the risk of getting caught up in the tether is huge. Young animals tethered develop behavioural problems due to not learning the correct social skills to enable them to interact normally with other equines; they do not develop correctly mentally or physically.
The horse is primarily a flight animal, it is denied this prime option if tethered. Mares that are tethered whilst their foals are free suffer enormous stress as they cannot properly protect their foals nor can they reach them should a problem occur.
Remus is working with other Sanctuaries across the Country to put the facts before the Government in the hope that they will amend the Animal Welfare Bill and outlaw the tethering of equines.
A paper petition has been launched. This will be submitted to the Speaker at the House of Commons and the petition wording will be recorded in Hansard and be in the public domain.
An online petition has been launched and we need to achieve 100,000 signatures by September to achieve a debate in the House of Commons
A website will be launched at the beginning of March
A Report is almost complete – this will highlight the issues involved in tethering and will show the suffering that so often occurs. This Report will go to MP’s, Defra Ministers, and the media.