The Law

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997
The Transit of Animals (Road and Rail) Order 1975

A horse shall not be transported unless it is fit for the intended journey. A horse shall not be considered fit if it is new born, ill, injured, infirm, fatigued, has given birth during the preceding 48 hours, or is likely to give birth during transport, or for any other reason, unless it is to be transported direct to the nearest available place for veterinary treatment or diagnosis.
A horse may not be dragged or pushed by any means, or lifted by a mechanical device unless under the supervision and in the presence of a veterinary surgeon who is arranging for it to be transported with all practicable speed to a place for veterinary treatment.
Horses shall not be transported in a way which causes or is likely to cause them injury or unnecessary suffering, e.g. vehicles must be of sound construction, have non-slip floors, no sharp projections, and have adequate space to allow the horses to stand in their natural position.
The Orders have no further implications for the transport of pet horses, to the transport of an individual horse accompanied by a person who has responsibility for it, including privately owned horses used for recreational purposes, unless the transport is of a commercial nature. Otherwise, read on:
Vehicles used for the transport of horses for commercial purposes on journeys up to a maximum of 8 hours must comply with certain constructional requirements. In addition, for journeys in excess of 8 hours, vehicles must be upgraded to include the provision of bedding, appropriate feed, direct access, adjustable ventilation, moveable partitions, and facilities for connection to a water supply. All vehicles must be constructed, maintained and operated so as to allow appropriate cleaning and disinfection. (NB journeys of less than 50km between agricultural land are exempt).
At an appropriate time before the journey begins, horses must be offered liquid and food.
Precautions in the form of partitions, must be taken to support the horses and prevent them being thrown about by the motion of the vehicle. Compartments must not exceed 3.7m in length.
Where horses are not led into or out of a vehicle, the loading ramp must be provided with protection on each side, sufficient to prevent them from falling off or escaping. Ramps must be fitted with foot battens or otherwise to prevent slipping.
There must be appropriate ventilation and sufficient air space above the horses to allow air to circulate properly.
Horses may not be transported in a vehicle with more than one deck in operation.
When transported in groups, horses must wear halters (unless they are unbroken) and their hind feet must be unshod.
A stallion or mare with a foal at foot may not be transported in the same undivided vehicle as any other horse.
During transport, horses must be accompanied by an Animal Transport Certificate (ATC) giving details of the journey and the horses being transported. Persons transporting their own horses to, from or within their own premises on a journey of less than 50km in their own vehicle with an internal length of less than 3.7m, are exempt from this requirement.
Horses (other than registered horses) being traded and transported on international journeys exceeding 8 hours must be accompanied by a route plan giving all necessary details of the journey.
Except in a higher grade vehicle, no horse may be transported on a journey in excess of 8 hours. In a higher grade vehicle, horses may be transported for 24 hours, provided that, at 8 hourly intervals, they are given liquid and if necessary, fed. At the end of the 24 hour period of transport, horses must be rested for at least 24 hours. Registered horses, i.e. registered with a recognised breed society or a company such as Wetherby's horses travelling under a Passport and competition horses, are not subject to specified journey times, feeding, watering and rest periods, or Route Plan requirements.
Registered horses must be accompanied by proof of registration, eg horse passports.
During transport, horses must be accompanied by a competent person.
Commercial transporters of horses on journeys over 8 hours must have a specific authorisation from MAFF.
When a partition is used to separate horses in a vehicle it shall not be less than 1.27 metres in height.
Vehicles used for the transport of horses shall be cleansed and disinfected after each movement, unless:

(i) the movement takes place back and forth between the same two premises on the same day;
(ii) the vehicle is used by the occupier of licensed racing stables

Further advice regarding cleansing and disinfection is available from the Service.

The Protection of Animals Act 1911

If any person shall cruelly beat, kick, ill-treat, over-ride, over-drive, overload, torture, infuriate, or terrify any horse, or being the owner shall permit any horse to be so abused, that person shall be guilty of an offence of cruelty under this Act.
If any person shall tether any horse under such conditions, or in such a manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering, that person shall be guilty of an offence of cruelty under this Act.
If any person, being the owner of, or having charge or control of any horse, shall without reasonable cause or excuse abandon it, whether permanently or not, in circumstances likely to cause the horse any unnecessary suffering, that person shall be guilty of an offence of cruelty under this Act.


For the purpose of this guidance, ‘horse’ includes pony, donkey, ass mule or hinny.

The Equine

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