Horses run and herd animals. In the wild, animals regularly travel distances of 30-40 kilometers to find food – in general, eating takes up a significant part of their time. By contrast, horse breeding can be found in the majority of horse stables (pensions). Here there is usually only a narrow time frame in which animals are allowed to go to the barn or barn. At the same time, in many barns the feeding model prevails, which provides only hay two or three times a day – supplementing it with the introduction of concentrated feed if necessary. In the winter, many horses see only their chest, regardless of the rider’s movement in the ring or in the ring. Conversely, this means staying in the crate for at least 20 hours without being able to adequately move. But what are the legal requirements for raising horses? The following article aims to provide clarity.
The Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) is crucial to the assessment. § 2 TierSchG states:
“Any person who raises, cares for, or takes care of an animal
1 – The animal must be fed appropriately according to its type and needs, and cared for and housed in a manner commensurate with its behaviour.
2. The animal’s ability to exercise in a manner appropriate to the species shall not be restricted in such a way as to cause it pain, suffering or avoidable harm,
3. He must have the knowledge and skills necessary for the proper feeding, care and accommodation of the animal in accordance with its behaviour.“
Standard duties apply to everyone who keeps, cares for, or cares for a horse, which can generally be summarized under the term “care”. [Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 2].
A horse owner, in particular, is someone who uses the animal for his or her own benefit and not just temporarily. Who is responsible for bearing the costs of the animal and who bears the risk of loss can play a role here; However, ownership status is not required. In general, the concept of custodian in Clause 2 of the TierSchG corresponds to the concept of custodian under civil law [Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 5].
horse care[…] It is actual care because force is determined on the animal, and it is not breeding.“[ Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 7]. The difference arises from the situation, in principle, from the degree of responsibility for the performance of duties in relation to feeding, care, etc. [Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 7]. On the other hand, one speaks of “having to take care” when there is an obligation to take care. This obligation may arise, for example, from a law or a contract, such as a pension contract, for example.
Critical for assessing the obligations arising from Paragraph 2 No. 1 TierSchG is on the one hand the animal species to which the animal belongs and on the other hand consideration of the evolution, adaptation and domestication of the animal as well as physiological and ethical needs based on practical experience and scientific findings [Richtlinie 98/58/EG des Rates vom 20. Juli 1998 über den Schutz landwirtschaftlicher Nutztiere, Art. 4]. In principle, this also applies to horses. As much as paragraph 2 #1 of the TierSchG talks about proper nutrition, the wording of the standard already indicates that the judgment does not have to be ‘best’. ‘appropriate’ means much more that there must be a proportionate balance between the purpose of use and the (financial) reasonableness of the owner or caregiver – for this purpose a weighing of goods and interests must be made [Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 19].
The accommodation required of the animal requires that the animal behave in a manner proportionate to the species; This includes, for example, the functional circuits of group or movement relations [VG Gelsenkirchen BeckRS 2012, 51553]. Animals should also be given the opportunity to obtain protection from climatic influences such as heat. Shelters must be kept clean [Erbs/Kohlhaas/Metzger, 239. EL Dezember 2021, TierSchG § 2 Rn. 28 zu den Pflichten].
In addition to the TierSchG regulations, the guidelines of the Federal Department of Food and Agriculture must be observed. However, these are not legally binding rules, but may be used as a supplement by breeders and courts when evaluating TierSchG regulations for interpretation. They are evidence. Central to the evaluation of equine breeding are the guidelines for evaluating equine breeding from an animal welfare point of view [abrufbar auf der Seite des BMEL]. Above all, the Guidelines outline the standards for breeding, caring, and grooming horses. Here are some of the most important aspects:
With regard to housing, the guidelines specifically require that visual, auditory and olfactory contact between individual animals is possible [S. 4 der Haltungsrichtlinien]. Exceptions are allowed only in the case of completely incompatible animals or in the presence of diseases. The next paragraph already states that consideration must be given to the social structure of horses, whether they are kept individually or in groups. On the contrary, this means that the horse is generally tolerated to be kept alone, despite the necessary attention to social exchange [hierrunter unterfällt nach den Richtlinien auch die Haltung in einer Innen- oder Außenbox oder einer Box mit Kleinauslauf]. Only the standing position proves to be incompatible with animal welfare. On the other hand, for ponies and young animals, reasons for social development are indicated and it is generally forbidden to keep them alone [S. 4 der Haltungsrichtlinien].
In addition, a feed rich in raw fibers does not necessarily need to be provided throughout the day, but at least 12 hours a day [S. 5 der Haltungsrichtlinien].
For breeding, there are only target specifications that must be met, i.e. even the guidelines do not consider them to be fundamentally binding. Because of the animals’ lungs, care must be taken to ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air. In addition, different minimum dimensions of the box space and minimum ceiling height were established, depending on the height of the horse at the withers [S. 21 der Haltungsrichtlinien]. A large, dry and malleable lying surface should be provided for the animals. At the same time, each horse should have the opportunity to have enough time and rest for eating. Horses should always have water, no matter how they are raised [S. 7 der Haltungsrichtlinien].
There is no minimum time for grazing or exercise. Unfortunately, the term “as far as possible” is used here without obligation [S. 5 der Haltungsrichtlinien] He noted the behavior of animals moving about 16 hours in the uninhabited free wilderness.
Pursuant to Section 16a (1) No. 1 TierSchG, a competent authority (such as a veterinary office) can order actions required to fulfill the requirements of Section 2 TierSchG in individual cases to eliminate specific violations of the TierSchG and to prevent future violations. In addition, animals can be taken completely away from the owner and at the same time a ban on animal husbandry can be imposed. In particular, keeping horses as a hobby is subject to the supervision of the competent authority in accordance with Article 16 Paragraph 1 Sentence 1 No. 1 TierSchG [VG Würzburg BeckRS 2016, 45387].
For a legal assessment of the situation, the decisions made and their content must be taken into account. In its decision of January 22, 2019, VG Regensburg, BeckRS 2019, 3491, explicitly uses the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s breeding guidelines as a basis. In the opinion of VG Regensburg, these apply not only to recreational horses, but also to sports horses. There are no limitations on the scope of application in the guidelines. As a result, adequate pasture and/or exercise must be provided for both sporting and recreational horses. If an official order stipulates that (at least) three hours must be carried out, the court is of the opinion that this should be approved. At the same time, it is not important that keeping horses without exercise often happens in practice or is “the usual thing”. In examining Article 2 No. 2 TierSchG, the Court was not guided by the question of customary practice.
In its judgment of 4 December 2006, VG Düsseldorf, BeckRS 2007, 24979, determined that an (official) order to provide all horses kept at least three to four hours of outdoor exercise each day was lawful and that the plaintiff (as owner) was not injured in her rights. In addition, the court found that a three to four hour opportunity to exercise outdoors compensates for the loss of activity in the stable housing and is therefore not dependent on the weather. As a result, horses should always be given the possibility to exercise even in bad weather. If the plaintiff in the particular case raises objections in this respect, in particular with regard to permafrost and constant rain, the court is of the opinion that the installation corresponding to the port can (and should) meet any risk (injury). The objection that in winter, due to the early onset of darkness, the required hours could not be observed, does not seem convincing in the opinion of the Court. Because at this point the guard has the option to reduce the number of animals or create another port area so that he can guarantee a matching (synchronous) port.
Würzburg Administrative Court Decision of 16 July 2018, BeckRS 2018, 16492 shows that year-round free-range keeping can under certain circumstances justify a TierSchG infringement of horses as well as delivery and, if necessary, the tolerance of removal of horses. In particular, the veterinary office had complained about the lack of (adequate) protection from the weather and significant pollution in the animal’s lying area, which was too small, with suitable conditions to rectify the situation. At the same time, the property did not have enough security, so the royal animals were repeatedly left alone. In addition, there were shortcomings in the care of animals, especially in the field of hoof care. However, there was an obstacle to enforcement in the base case, because the guard was not the owner of the horses. From the property, the owner has the right to animals which leads to the possibility of legally preventing coercive actions. There was no indulgence order against the owner, so the decision was illegal.
Horse breeding from a legal perspective
When raising horses – regardless of whether it is a purely private hobby or commercial breeding – the specifications of the Federal Department of Food and Agriculture’s Equine Breeding Guidelines must be observed and at least a minimum complied with. Likewise, taking into account the various provisions that have been made, it is advised that horses be given at least two to three hours of exercise. With regard to care and feeding, suitability must be considered and care must be taken to ensure that the feed is of adequate quality. Constant availability of water is mandatory.