About illegally grazed horses

Horses are often left to graze on land such as grass verges, parks and sports pitches without the permission of the landowner.

Horses are often tethered (tied up with a chain or rope) but sometimes they roam free.   

Why illegal grazing is a problem

At first glance the problems associated with illegal grazing may not be obvious. Many owners when told to move their horses say ‘they are not doing any harm’. However, there are problems with illegal grazing.

Animal welfare

  • Terrible injuries have been caused to horses left with tight collars that have cut into the horse's head or neck.
  • Horses have also been injured and even killed from becoming tangled in the tether chain.
  • Tethered horses cannot run away from attackers. We have had reports of horses targeted in attacks or they have been released from their tether. They are also potentially at risk of being attacked by dogs.  
  • We also receive regular reports from people worried that horses do not have adequate access to water, hay/grass or shelter from severe weather.
  • The council has found both dead and dying horses tethered illegally on council land. We have come across animals that are clearly sick or emaciated. We have even seen heavily-pregnant mares tethered.
  • While some of the horses tethered around the borough are in good physical shape, tethering does not allow horses to exhibit natural social behaviour such as bonding and grooming, and it also means they can't exercise.
  • This can cause a great deal of mental stress and is in contravention of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Public safety

  • Often the horses are tethered by busy roads such as the A41 (Black Country New Road) or in residential areas with high volumes of traffic. These horses often stray into the road, where they could cause an accident – injuring both themselves and other people.
  • Horses have also been known to kick or bite passers-by. When tethered near to homes, there are also problems with noise, flies and smells.
  • There have also been occasions where members of the public who have approached horse owners have been subjected to threatening and abusive behaviour.
  • If you are threatened or feel at risk call the police. In an emergency dial 999. Non-emergency situations call 101.

Damage to our green spaces

Illegally grazed horses are often placed on public land such as roadside verges, sports fields and open green spaces. Not only can this restrict access to these publicly-owned facilities for sports, playing and dog walking, but the horses cause damage to fences and turf.

This can cause serious disruption and leave the council with a bill to repair pitches and fences.

Information for horse owners

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has produced a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies. This explains the duty of care for those who own or are responsible for a horse.

We expect owners to comply with the RSPCA's recommendations on tethering.

Every horse must have a passport. Foals must have a passport and microchip within six months of birth or by 31 December in the year they are born, whichever is the latest.

Find out more about micro-chipping and passports. It is an offence not to have a passport for each horse you own.

Legal grazing options

We have limited grazing land available at Sandwell Valley. Contact Sandwell Valley on 0121 553 0220 to find out more.

Advice for private landowners

If you are a private landowner and you are concerned about horses being grazed on your land without permission, please email us at horse_line@sandwell.gov.uk or call 0121 569 3911 (24 hour answerphone).