I share your concerns about the detrimental effects of tethering on horse welfare. As you know, it is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or to fail to provide for its welfare needs, including the need for a suitable environment, to exhibit normal behaviour patterns and to be protected from pain and suffering.
The code of practice for the welfare of horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids states that tethering is not a suitable method of long-term management for an animal as it can restrict their natural freedoms, such as being able to exercise and access food or water. It can put horses at risk of injury from entanglement in tethering equipment and prevent them from escaping from danger.
Currently, anyone who has failed to meet the welfare needs of an animal can receive up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine and a ban on keeping animals. I am pleased that maximum sentences for the most severe animal cruelty offences are set to increase to five years’ imprisonment.
The Government says it considers that existing legislation and guidance in place on tethering horses ensures their welfare needs are met appropriately. The Government advises that if anyone is concerned about the way a horse is tethered, they should report it to the local authority or a charity like the RSPCA or World Horse Welfare for investigation.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that pledged to lead the world with high animal welfare standards for domestic animals. The Opposition has consulted on its draft Animal Welfare Plan, which includes a proposal to appoint an Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure that government policy is continually informed by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and best practice in animal welfare.