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‘Fly-grazing’ is an increasing rural problem, warn leading solicitors


The recent ‘James Gray’ case has highlighted the serious issue of neglected
horses, the consequences of which are not limited to those to whom they belong.
Consequently, farmers and landowners need to be on their guard against the
increasing problem of ‘fly-grazing’, the unlawful keeping of livestock on
privately-owned land, according to Knights Solicitors, a specialist in rural
legal issues.

“Fly-grazing may initially appear to be a relatively trivial matter but can
quickly become a worrying, expensive problem. Those who are affected by it
should seek specialist legal advice at an early stage,” warns Tim Ryan, a
Partner in the Tunbridge Wells-based firm. Mr Ryan adds:

“Fields which are targeted by ‘fly-grazers’ tend to be well maintained, with
good hedging or fencing, and the animals seemingly appear out of nowhere in a
very short period of time. To gain access, their owners frequently cut the locks
off farm gates or cause significant damage to hedges and fences, causing the
land owner to incur considerable expense in reinstating the field boundaries to
their former condition.

“Three options are available to those who are faced with the problem of
trespassing livestock.

“First, where livestock are obviously suffering or in distress, consideration
should be given to contacting the Local Authority’s Trading Standards Department
or the RSPCA, as there are powers which can be exercised to seize such animals
under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This is particularly important where
ownership of the livestock cannot be established, as under that Act the owner of
the land could be held responsible for the animals and for any unnecessary
suffering or failure to provide for their needs. Even where they are unwilling
or unable to assist, involving such agencies early substantially reduces the
risk of the landowner being prosecuted.

“The second option is to exercise the right to detain straying animals under
Section 7 of the Animals Act 1971, which arises only when animals are ‘not under
the control of any person’. A measure of this might include the presence of
padlocks on gates or evidence of regular feeding and other livestock husbandry.

“The third is to apply for a possession order over the fields under Part 55 of
the Civil Procedure Rules, which involves fast-track proceedings in the County
Court, but this can be expensive and time-consuming.

“Whilst alternative methods can often achieve the same result in much less time,
at much lower cost, formal possession proceedings might sometimes be the only
way to deal with fly-grazers. Consequently, farmers and land owners should
ensure that they have appropriate insurance in place to cover legal costs and
expenses if such a situation arises.”

Tim Ryan can be contacted at Knights Solicitors on 01892 537311

Knights Solicitors, a specialist law firm focusing on civil, criminal and
regulatory litigation, is best known for its property, environmental and
agricultural work. Further information is available at

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