Field Officer checking welfare of a tethered horse

Worried about a horse?

If you are concerned about a horse in the UK, please call our Welfare Hotline on 0300 333 6000 between 8 am and 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.

If you are concerned about a horse in the UK, please call our Welfare Hotline on 0300 333 6000 between 8 am and 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.

When you call, you will speak to someone who has a good knowledge, both of horses and the relevant legislation, and all calls are dealt with in the strictest confidence. Calls may be recorded for training purposes but remain confidential.  Unfortunately we are unable to answer calls over the weekend, but if you leave a voicemail message we will return your call as soon as possible. 

We have a small but experienced team answering the welfare line, so please bear with us if you have difficulty getting through. We have an answerphone system in place to allow us to deal with as many calls as possible, so if your call isn’t answered immediately please leave a message and we promise to get back to you – we aim to return all welfare calls on the same working day. When leaving a message, please state your phone number clearly and repeat it – this is particularly important if you’re calling from a mobile as it may be a bad line. 

We prefer to take welfare reports over the telephone rather than by email, as this allows us to ask any questions we need in order to get the full picture of the situation – essential for assessing urgency. It also allows us to make sure we know exactly where the horses are. 

We understand callers’ concerns about remaining anonymous, and this can be assured, but speaking to someone rather than reading an email or listening to an anonymous voicemail message ensures the horses can be visited if necessary – it may not be possible for us to find the horses from the information left on a message.  

We take welfare concerns by phone rather than through email or social media because we need to ask very specific questions about the horse and the situation in order to prioritise and action the report appropriately. It is vitally important that the person we are speaking to has up-to-date, first-hand information. Without this, it can be very difficult to get the full picture or an exact location for the horse or pony, both of which are fundamental to investigate the concern further. We will, of course, use other methods of communication if the reporter is unable to use a telephone.

As tempting as it may be to share or discuss welfare concerns on social media, there are a number of significant pitfalls with this approach and we would urge extreme caution in doing so. Not only can the content shared be exaggerated or misinformed, it could also be detrimental to the rescue of a horse or pony or to any potential action against the person responsible. 

By sharing images across social channels, a neglectful or abusive owner may receive a warning that they are due to be visited and therefore have a chance to remove the animal or temporarily improve its care, leaving us unable to find the horse and/or remove it.  In some cases, welfare officers have worked hard over a period of time to develop lines of communication with owners in order to get access to animals which may be of concern, and it is a sad fact that the same owners can very quickly cut off these lines of communication if they feel as though they are being publicly criticised. 

In certain circumstances it can be extremely difficult to get access to horses which are of concern and options such as getting a warrant – which has to be issued by a court – can be difficult to achieve and will inevitably take time to put in place, giving the owner yet more opportunity to remove the horse or make just enough of an improvement so that no action can be taken.  Many of these outcomes would not be in the best interests of the animals involved. 

We fully appreciate how upsetting and frustrating it can be to see images of animals in distress on social media, but in many cases these photographs do not offer a full picture. If you are concerned by any photographs or videos you see on social media, please ask the person who took the originals to call our welfare line as soon as they can and encourage them to remove the images so that word does not get back to the owner before the matter can be thoroughly investigated. 

For us to help horses in need there are procedures which must be followed in order to secure, wherever possible, an appropriate long-term improvement in their situation and we greatly appreciate all your support in helping us to achieve this for as many horses as possible – we simply couldn’t do what we do without your help. 

If you are unsure whether or not a situation needs to be reported, you can find some guidance on our When should I call? page. 

If you are concerned about a horse outside the UK read our guide on what to do if you see a horse or donkey suffering.

If you have information about horses which may help our work (such as information on ports, transportation routes, holding facilities, disease, banned people keeping horses etc.) then you can contact us confidentially via Tell us. Please note however that this is NOT a service to report horses in immediate need of our assistance. If you do have concerns about a horse in immediate need of help, please call our UK Welfare Hotline on 0300 333 6000

Should I intervene?

It may be tempting to feed or otherwise care for a horse or pony you believe is not being looked after properly.

However, we advise you not to do this. A few reasons for this are:

  • Without knowledge of the horse’s condition and husbandry, you may overfeed the horse or feed it something that affects it adversely.
  • Providing care might make the owner less likely to take responsibility for the future care of the horse
  • Providing care may prevent action from being taken to resolve the situation in the long term

The best course of action is to contact us on 0300 333 6000. We have an in depth knowledge of horses and the relevant law and will be able to determine the best course of action.

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