The Control of Horses Act appoints local authorities to control horses in their area. The legislation covers horses, donkeys, mules and female mules. It is primarily designed to prevent problems that had arisen in certain urban areas of horses straying and roaming, being ridden by underaged riders and not being cared for.
The local authority is the council or city council or borough. It did not include the Urban District Council. The local authority may designate an area to be a “Control Area”. A person who owns or keeps a horse in a Control Area must have a horse licence issued by the local authority.
Failure to have a licence is an offence. The offence may be prosecuted. It may be subject to on the spot penalty, and fines. The horse may be seized and impounded.
A stray horse is a horse apparently wandering at large, lost, abandoned or unaccompanied, whether tethered or un-tethered by any person apparently in charge of it in a public place or on any premises without the occupier or owner’s consent.
The local authorities appoint officers to exercise functions under the legislation. The authorized persons are given a warrant of their appointment, which must be produced if requested by a person affected.
Where a member of an Garda Síochána suspects a person of committing or having committed certain offences under the legislation, he may arrest without a warrant.
A person is liable for damage caused by a horse he or she owns or controls.
A person who owns a horse that is kept by or on his behalf in a Control Area without a horse licence is guilty of an offence. So too, a person other than the owner or keeper has in his charge a horse in a Control Area without a licence is guilty of an offence.
The occupier of a premises in a Control Area where a horse is found who is not the owner is deemed to have it in his charge or control unless he proves that the horse is kept in his premises without his knowledge or permission by some other person and there is a horse licence in force in respect of that horse.
It may be a defence that the person has given another possession of his horse without permission to bring it into a Control Area. It is also a defence to show that an application for a horse licence is pending if it has not been refused. The onus is on the possessor/owner.
The following exemptions apply to the requirement for a horse licence
- he is a pound keeper, member of an Garda Síochána in the course of his duty,
- a veterinary surgeon providing services for a horse,
- a person who keeps or has charge or control of a horse to prevent it from causing injury or damage or persons or restoring it to its proper owner,
- other classes of persons who may be prescribed.
- kept by the local authority,
- members of the Defence Forces in the course of their duty.
- possessed by an authorized dealer under the diseases of animal legislation,
- imported into the State for up to 90 days or such other period as may be prescribed.
- brought or kept in an area in circumstances or for purposes prescribed generally in relation to any area or specified in local byelaws.
- brought in for the purpose of participating in certain events on specified days or as may be specified in byelaws,
- is a foal
- has been recently purchased or come into possession of the owner or keeper for a period of one week from the purchase or as long period as may be permitted by byelaws.
- being transported from outside the area directly through the Control Area for export or import outside the Control Area.
- subject to such other exemptions as may be prescribed in bye laws.
An applicant for a horse licence must be over 16 years of age. The licence may be subject to such terms and conditions as are specified. It should being respect of a particular horse who is identified and in a prescribed format. A horse licence shall not be granted
- to a person under 16,
- a person disqualified from holding a horse licence following conviction or offences,
- a person in the authority’s opinion, unfit to keep a horse or a person who fails to satisfy the authority that a horse will be properly maintained.
There are exemptions for equine events such as sales, showing of horses or gymkhana applies from the day before to the day after the event. Adequate facilities must be provided at the event.
A horse licence remains in force for 12 months or such other period as may be prescribed in the licence. It shall state the name of the holder and the address of the premises where the horse is ordinarily kept. It is an offence to forge or alter horse licence or to make false statements in connection with its application.
A local authority may suspend or revoke a horse licence or amend its terms
- when the holder is convicted of an offence,
- where the horse is detained by the authority on two or more occasions,
- where there are reasonable grounds for believing the holder is not complying with terms of licence or is abusing or not properly keeping, controlling or maintaining the horse or causes it injury
or the holder has horse licence in respect to another horse revoked or amended.
A horse must be implanted with a microelectronic identification before the licence is issued. The identification device number is included in the licence. Failure to have the identification is an offence and may be subject to an on the spot fine. It is an offence to forge, alter or interfere with a device or identification mark.
On application for a horse licence, the local authority may examine the horse and the premises where it is proposed to be kept. Regulations may be made in relation to the form and procedure in connection with the horse licence application.
Where a local authority proposes to refuse a grant or suspend a horse licence, it shall notify the applicant or holder of the proposal. Representations may be made within 14 days, which shall be considered. Having considered the representations, it may decide to grant, suspend or revoke or amend the terms of the licence. It shall notify the holder of the decision and of the grounds.
The holder may appeal to the District Court against the alteration, revocation or suspension of the licence within 14 days. The decision does not take effect until the expiration of the appeal period. On the appeal, the District Court may confirm or vary the decision of the local authority. The decision is final save for the possibility of appeal to the High Court on a point of law only.
Each local authority maintains a register of horse licences. The register is to contain details of identification, reference, description of horse,
- name and address of the owner,
- when the licence was granted,
- where a horse is normally kept, where kept by a person other than the owner, that person’s name and address,
- name and address of any person to whom ownership is transferred.
Where the holder of a horse licence disposes of it, he must inform the local authority of the transfer and give details of the address of new owner. Where a horse dies, the local authority must be informed and given details of the cause of death. Failure to comply without reasonable excuse is an offence.