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Equine and tethering advice

Advice about the welfare of equine animals - horses, ponies and donkeys.

If a horse, pony or donkey is loose on the highway, please contact Cleveland Police immediately on 999.

Equine Identification Regulations 2018

Under the Equine Identification Regulations 2018, it is mandatory for all horses, ponies and donkeys in England to be identified with a passport and microchip.

Failure to have your equine microchipped and passported may lead to civil sanctions being taken against you.


Tethering of horses, ponies or donkeys

Information for the public

We regularly receive reports about equine animals being tethered and illegally grazed on Council Land. These often come from members of the public who are concerned for the welfare of the animal, especially during the winter and summer months.

What is tethering and is it legal?

Tethering is where an animal is secured to an area with a long rope or chain, which is fastened from its headcollar/neck strap to a stake in the ground. While it is not the ideal way to keep an equine animal, under current law tethering is not illegal and welfare professionals including the Council's Animal Health Officer and RSPCA officers can only intervene if the animal is suffering in some way.

Main concerns expressed by the public:

  • diet - grass is the staple for diet for many equine animals. It is important that tethered equine animals are moved regularly to ensure an adequate supply of grass. If plentiful amounts of grass are not available, then hay must be provided
  • water - ideally, equine animals should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. However some owners choose not to keep water available at all times due to buckets being kicked/blown over and/or stolen/removed from the area. In cases such as these, the owner should be offering water at regular intervals throughout the day. It is not enough to offer water once or twice per day
  • rugging - not all equine animals require a rug in the winter as they naturally grow a warm winter coat as well as producing natural oils which keep their coat waterproof

For more information on tethering, visit The British Horse Society website


Grazing of equine animal on Council Owned Land

When we receive a report of an equine animal being illegally grazed on Council land, the location of each equine is assessed on an individual basis and risk rated in relation to public safety (i.e. access to the highway/public footpaths/children's play areas) as well as damage to Council assets.

Additionally, the welfare of the animal is checked, particularly in relation to tethering equipment, body condition, hoof condition, access to grazing and clean water. Any concerns that we may have been raised with owners if they are known to us, otherwise ownership will be investigated.

If you are concerned about a tethered horse within the Borough then please call 01642 524789 or send an email to


Private landowners dealing with fly-grazing

Fly-grazing is the deliberate grazing of one or more horses, ponies or donkeys on a piece of land without the landowner/occupier's consent.

Using the Animals Act 1971, as amended by the Control of Horses Act 2015, there are steps that a landowner/occupier can legally take in order to have fly-grazed horses, ponies or donkeys removed from their land. These steps are as follows:

  • the owner/occupier of the land may detain the horse/pony, donkey/s
  • serve the appropriate detention notices - within 24 hours of detaining the horse/pony, donkey/s
  • you must give notice to the officer in charge of the police station as well as giving notice to the owner of the horse/pony, donkey/s (if known)
  • notices should also be displayed at the location from where the  horse/pony, donkey/s were detained - this is not a legal requirement but good practice
  • the horse/pony, donkey/s must be kept for 96 hours - this does not include weekends or bank holidays
  • if an owner comes forward to claim the horse/pony, donkey/s then the right to detain ceases - provided that they pay any costs incurred as a result of the animal/s being on the land and/or from being detained
  • if after 96 hours the animals owner has not been claimed, then ownership passes to the person detaining them. The animal may then be sold, given away, euthanised or in any other way
  • the person/s detaining the horse/pony, donkey/s are liable to ensure their welfare needs are met as per the Animal Welfare Act 2006

For more information or advice please contact the Environmental Health Team on 01642 524789 or email