What is the law on the transportation of horses?

Which laws apply?

The transportation of horses is covered by the following legislation:

  • The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 or, in the case of Wales, the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Wales) Order 2006;
  • The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999;
  • The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995;
  • The Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Orders

The regulations apply to anyone who is transporting an animal in connection with an economic activity, i.e. where animals are transported as part of a business. The regulations, therefore, apply to those who move horses as part of a professional riding, livery or stabling business.

The regulations contain detailed provisions in relation to the following matters:

Protection of animals during transportation

The regulations impose an obligation that anyone engaged in the handling and transportation of animals must do so in a way that does not or is not likely to cause undue suffering or injury to them.

Means of transport and transport policies

There us a requirement that transport used for the transportation of animals is designed, constructed, maintained and operated so as to avoid suffering and injury and to ensure the safety of animals. Amongst other things, this includes:

  • anti-slip flooring;
  • lighting;
  • loading and unloading facilities. The regulations set out specific ramp angles required for horses;
  • sufficient floor space and height for the animals;
  • cleansing and disinfecting;
  • the requirement for horses older than eight months to wear halters during the transport (there is an exception for unbroken horses);
  • the prohibition from the transportation of horses in multi-deck vehicles in certain circumstances;
  • the requirement for individual stalls (except for mares travelling with their foals);
  • limits on the number of unbroken horses that can be transported

Where the journey time is over eight hours the vehicles and containers used for the transport must be inspected and approved.

Fitness of animals to travel

The regulations require that an animal must be fit for the journey before the journey starts and must remain sufficiently fit throughout the journey.

Feed, water, journey times and rest periods

The regulations set out requirements for feed, water, journey times and rest periods.

Competent and/ or trained handlers

The regulations contain specific requirements in relation to the handling of horses. Where a horse is transported over 65km and the journey time is up to eight hours, the person transporting the horse is required to hold a valid certificate of competence.

Treatment of sick animals

The regulations contain provisions relating to the treatment of any sick animals.

Transport authorisations

Where a horse is transported up to 65km the horse must be accompanied by an Animal Transport Certificate.

Where a horse is transported over 65km and the journey time is up to eight hours, the person transporting the horse is required to hold a valid transporter authorisation.

Journey logs

Where the journey time is over eight hours the horse or horses must be accompanied by a journey log.

Navigations systems for exporters

The regulations contain requirements for navigation systems for exporters.

Exemptions for registered horses

Horses that are registered with a recognised breed society or certain companies such as the British Horse Database at Wetherby’s are exempt from many of the requirements.

The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995

Under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995 an Operator’s Licence is required to drive a horse box or lorry with a maximum authorised mass of over 3.5 tonnes, or an unladen weight of over 1525kg, if the horse box or lorry is used in connection with a business or in connection with any form of commercial activity.

The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999

Under the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, a category C1 driving licence is needed to tow a horse box where the maximum authorised mass exceeds 3.5 tonnes but not 7.5 tonnes. If it exceeds 7.5 tonnes then a category C driving licence is required.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 contains a number of general provisions relating to the welfare of animals.