Categories: Campaigns700 words2.7 min read

Duty of Care and Secondary Responsibility Explained


March 18, 2021



Thinking of putting your horse up for loan? Considering loaning a horse? Are you fully aware of your responsibilities?

HAPPA’s Equine Inspector Tracy Heaton explains “There is a lot of confusion regarding this subject. Posts on social media are highlighting that there are a high number of owners who don’t understand their responsibilities for the welfare of an equine they own, which is on loan to a third party. It is essential that owners are made aware and know the law relating to this before considering putting a horse out on loan.”

To understand this further, and how this applies in law, we must look to Section 3 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006:

Responsibility for animals:

(1) The Act references a person responsible for an animal; a person responsible for an animal whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

(2) The Act references being responsible for an animal and includes being in charge of it.

(3) For the purposes of this Act a person who owns an animal shall always be regarded as being a person who is responsible for it.

(4) For the purposes of this Act a person shall be treated as responsible for any animal for which a person under the age of 16 years, of whom he has actual care and control, is responsible.

To clarify, this means that the owner is always regarded as the person responsible, therefore it is their responsibility to regularly check on the welfare of any equine they have put out on loan. If the equine on loan was put at risk, or its welfare became compromised, then the legal owner has a secondary responsibility to act and ensure a ‘Duty of Care’.

The person that is loaning the horse is also responsible to provide a ‘Duty of Care’ as the person being in charge, or responsible, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

Whether you are an owner or a loaner, a contract can clarify such details as: who insures, who pays vets bills, if you can move yards, the return procedure, option to buy and other practical details, but the ‘Duty of Care’ remains with both parties under the legislation within The Animal Welfare Act 2006. This responsibility is shared and owners can find themselves being held accountable should a situation arise where the equine’s welfare in compromised. It is strongly advised to carefully consider having a contractual agreement in place outlining both parties’ responsibilities and what is right for you.

Loaning can be a great way for owner to afford to move on to their next horse, whilst ensuring the loan pony stays in their ownership, and for loaners to have a horse without the cost of buying.

Our Equine Inspectors often get calls from distraught owners, who have got an equine back from a loan home in a poor condition. Often the owner is unaware of their secondary responsibility under ‘Duty of Care’. Owners can be taken aback when they are asked ‘when did you last see the horse?’

HAPPA are hoping to raise awareness that it isn’t just the loaner’s responsibility and that the care and welfare of an equine does also lie with the legal owner.  We strongly advise that regular checks and visits are undertaken to ensure that the equine’s welfare isn’t compromised and that the legal owner takes on board their secondary ‘Duty of Care’.

HAPPA operate a Loan Scheme and we take pride in Rescuing and Rehoming equines. However, as HAPPA never relinquishes ownership, it proactively engages in its secondary ‘Duty of Care’ by providing a robust team of Loan Scheme Support Officers who routinely visit HAPPA equines on loan and are on hand for advice and support, anytime, throughout the term of the loan agreement.

We advise anyone loaning an equine, or those about to embark on entering into a loan agreement, to be aware of all the responsibilities this carries; discuss how you will keep in contact with each other about the equine’s welfare, under the ‘Duty of Care’, and understand your position in relation to the law.

With a clear agreement from the off-set the benefits of loaning an equine can be rewarding to both loaner and owner.