Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
The purpose of this Statement is to update Members on the actions I have taken and initiated since my last statement on the matter. I also wish to inform Members on future actions and plans.
The behaviour of those horse owners who seek to avoid their responsibilities through the practice of abandonment or fly grazing will not be tolerated anywhere in Wales. I expect all agencies and authorities involved to tackle such owners in a robust fashion and the Welsh Government will welcome action taken against owners who knowingly break the law or deliberately or negligently cause suffering to their animals. We will also support where appropriate any additional actions that authorities and agencies believe may be necessary to deal effectively with the problem.
Since my meeting with Carmel Napier, Chief Constable of Gwent, who takes the lead on these matters for Chief Constables in Wales, I have been very pleased with the way in which the police have taken forward a number of initiatives to address the problem.
We will work alongside the police to organise a seminar early in the new year to help spread good practice, identify what further action needs to be taken to prevent unauthorised fly grazing. My view is that we need a national policy and a single, consistent approach so that the problem is not simply displaced to other parts of the country. The police will also provide resources to assist local authorities in exercising their responsibilities and will also take a proactive role in enforcement.
I have now also met with Council Leaders from across South Wales where I reiterated the need for a co-ordinated and robust approach to the problem. In the conversations that I have had with both the police and local authorities I have made it very clear what our expectations are from enforcement authorities and how we expect them to vigorously use all available legislation to respond to fly grazing and abandonment. I am satisfied that there is a clear commitment and a willingness from agencies and organisations to work together to deal with this problem.
I shall be consulting on the legislation that is currently available and that which may be needed in future to deal with the problem of fly grazing. If the evidence points towards the need for legislative changes I will aim to introduce new legislation as soon as possible.
There is a responsibility on landowners who find themselves victims of fly grazing to come forward and report incidents and any associated anti social behaviour to the authorities. To facilitate this, I am pleased that the police have responded positively by introducing a ‘Single Point of Contact’ via the 101 number within each police force area. The Welsh Government has also created an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org to help and to enable members of the public to report either instances of fly grazing, abandonment or any other related issues.
I met with the Cross Party Group on the Horse on 20 November and was grateful for the opportunity to listen to the concerns of those present. I was encouraged by their willingness to work with local authorities and the police to provide training as well as working with individual horse owners within communities to combat the problem of non compliance with identification and welfare legislation. I share the disappointment of the members of the Cross Party Group on Defra’s decision to cease funding the National Equine Database, a decision which will certainly reduce the enforcement authorities’ ability to check and trace owners of horses in the future. I have written to the Defra Secretary of State to express my views on this decision and the arbitrary way in which it was taken.
Within the UK, Wales is leading the way on finding a solution to the problem of fly grazing and my officials are sharing the work they are doing on this matter with Defra. There is still much work to be done and with winter beginning there is a fear that the incidence of fly grazing will increase. All agencies involved must be ready to react positively to protect the welfare of horses and ponies, to safeguard the property of landowners and the safety of the general public.