Possible Horse Cruelty. The surprising response from RSPCA
While out walking the dog off the lead over a public footpath and land at Cobham, I had to urgently recall the dog having seen a horse loose in the field maybe 50 yards away. it was not possible to predict how the horse or dog would respond. This is a field other dog walkers and myself use regularly, and for anyone who knows the area it is across the road from the Sainsbury’s petrol station at Cobham, next to the River Mole.
We then walked up to the horse and saw that it had been tethered to a small post in the ground and was attached by a metal chain. The mane of the horse was covered in flies. The horse, to a non-expert, looked healthy but was in a field exposed to bright sunlight with no cover. There was a plastic bucket of water on the edge of the circle surrounding the horse. The horse had clearly trampled the long grass underfoot in a circumference that his chain allowed. I am really unsure if the horse could reach the water. I simply do not know as did not want to go too close with a 9 month husky puppy very interested by this stage in the horse.
So what to do? I have sat through hours of TV programmes, mostly USA but some UK, detailing animal rescue services for various animals in distress. Two things came to mind. Firstly my presumption was that it was illegal to simply tether an animal on public ground. Secondly, the health issue potentially for the horse, particularly if it got warmer ( temperature was around 22c), or it could not reach the water, or reached and drank all the water.
I called the RSPCA at Godstone, they seemed geographically the nearest. After a series of messages and holding on, I was given a recorded message to call another 24 hour number. On dealing this number, there were again a number of options, none actually exactly what i needed, however eventually after listening to around 5 minutes of disturbing elevator music, I spoke to a young female operator. I outlined the problem. It was then somewhat surprising to learn that it was not illegal to tether a horse in this way, and that there was nothing they could do. In short they had no option but to wait until the horse became visibly distressed or presumably collapsed.
This seems to be the situation as summed up here:
Horses may be kept loose in fields crossed by public rights of way as long as they are not known to be dangerous.
Horses may not be ridden on public footpaths unless the landowner has given permission. A horse rider may be asked to leave any land over which they do not have the right to ride, and may be asked to pay for any damages caused. If a horse being ridden on a public bridleway or byway injures another person, the owner of the horse may be held responsible for the injuries, and the horse rider may be held responsible if they are shown to be negligent in controlling the horse.
A number of things come to mind including the potential for dogs in this field off the lead to worry or even attack the horse. The health of the horse ( I am no expert). The final option from the RSPCA woman to me was for me to observe and monitor the situation. Lastly it was difficult to see how the horse could enter or leave the field without using a public footpath. So lets see what happens.
RSPCA? Rubbish in my opinion! Well that is unless the tv cameras are rolling and theirs a ‘celebrity’ in toe!
Must admit I was surprised as a novice caller to them how difficult it was to get through, must have taken 15 minutes being persistent. The person i spoke with hardly oozed help nor empathy for the horse.
Two options. Police, reporting a loose Gypsy horse or look up SAFE on Facebook. Horse charity who will water and monitor the response updates fromx the Police and Travellers. Or have it. They are brilliant. RSPCA can bad. Get pics on FB. Name and shame. xx
I have seen this horse and there are no issues, the landowner is responsible for moving the horse on. The owners details are on the Waterbury bucket which is kept full and the tethering is completely legal. Safe on Facebook will have no issues with this horse
Thanks. But does not address the horse having no shade in today 30c heat. And being worried by dogs . My concern was for the horse of course but we live in a kind of strange world when folks can just tether their animals anywhere. Are you also sure the horse can reach the water? I was unsure. I hope the land owner does move the horse on
Yep I’ve seen the horse too, opposite Sainsbury’s I walk my dog there too…I have also spoke to lady from world horse welfare who agreed with Rspca that it’s all legal, even no shade law changes when horses are tethered they only have to be offered water also and so for this horse to have access to water all times is a bonus! Have to say I reported to Rspca also as well as world horse welfare and been told horse is fine, can defo reach water