Read on for advice on what to do if you find a stray horse, whether they are injured or healthy. Plus, advice on how to respond if you find a fly-grazing horse (a horse unlawfully grazing on private or public land without the landowner's permission).
If you find a healthy stray horse in a private garden or property
Due to our limited resources and our urgent need to prioritise harmed animals or animals in immediate danger, our animal rescuers can not attend healthy stray horses.
Horses found straying on a public road are the responsibility of the police, please call 101 to report the location or 999 if you feel that there is a danger to road users. If you're concerned about a stray horse on private property, we would initially recommend checking with local liveries, farms, riding schools and veterinary practices.
If the horse has a freeze mark, you can contact Premier Equimark for advice. The Horse Passport Regulations introduced in 2009 make it mandatory for all horses to be passported and The Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018 and The Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2019 require that all horses must also now be microchipped. Most vets, local authorities and some police forces will carry microchip readers. Contact your local authority or the police for further advice.
If you believe the horse to have been abandoned on private land, in England under the Control of Horses Act 2015, you must inform your local police force. In Wales, under the Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014, you must inform the local authority.
If you find an injured stray horse
If you find an injured stray horse who requires urgent medical attention, please contact our 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 and pass us all of the details that you have.
Reporting fly-grazing (a horse grazing on land illegally)
Fly-grazing is the practice of unlawfully grazing horses on private or public land without the landowner's permission. The horses may not necessarily have been abandoned, but the land is being used illegally.
Our RSPCA animal rescuers do not collect healthy stray (including unlawfully grazing) horses. We receive 100s of calls every day (approximately one every 30 seconds!). It's vitally important that our animal rescuers attend to animals in immediate danger as a priority.
The Control of Horses Act 2015 came into force in May 2015. The Act states that landowners (both public e.g. local authorities, and private) can detain any equine that is fly-grazing on their land. And after a period of notice to potential owners to provide them with an opportunity to retrieve their animal, they can take possession of the animal and arrange a sale.
The police and owner, if known, must be notified within 24 hours. If you need any help or information regarding the act, please speak to a solicitor if you have access to one, or go to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The British Horse Society also provide excellent advice and resources. Note that the landowner is responsible for any injury caused to the horse while it is on the land, and is also responsible for meeting the horse's needs under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
An Act passed by the National Assembly for Wales (The Control of Horses Act 2014) states that a local authority may seize and impound a horse who is on any highway or in any other public place in the local authority's area if the local authority has reasonable grounds for believing that the horse is there without lawful authority. As it's the local authority that is responsible for taking action in Wales, please contact your local authority. The British Horse Society also provide useful information specific to Wales.
More advice & information on caring for horses
Find out more about equine welfare and legislation: