Following the criminalisation of squatting in England and Wales for the first time, the British Horse Society (BHS) is calling for similar laws to be introduced for equine squatters.
As of 1 September homeowners can report squatters directly to the police, as they are now considered to be committing a crime. If arrested, the unlawful residents then face up to six months in prison or a maximum £5000 fine – or both.
Previously the only way to deal with squatters was to gain a civil court order to regain possession of the property, which the government said was "time consuming, expensive and stressful”.
It is for the same reasons that the BHS has stated that legislation is also needed to protect landowners from ‘fly grazing’, where horses are simply dumped and abandoned. The practice has increased as a result of the recession and is particularly prevalent in Wales and the M25 corridor.
Mark Weston director of access, safety and welfare, said: “Landowners are in an impossible position if a horse owner refuses to remove a horse or does not come forward. They need legislation to protect and assist them with this problem. At present it can be extremely expensive and upsetting for landowners to secure the removal of such horses from their land.”