Horses, Donkeys and Hybrids

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The main pieces of legislation relating to the welfare, keeping and control of equines, donkeys and hybrids are:

Health and Welfare

  • Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 covers health and welfare, the duty to protection animal welfare, prohibition on animal cruelty, prohibition on abandonment of animals, along with identification, and sale of animals.

Premises Where Equines are Kept

Control On Places Where Horses Are Kept Regulations 2014 – S.I. No. 113/2014. This legislation applies to all horse owners.

Change of Ownership

Change of ownership (Sale and Purchase of Equines). This legislation applies to all horse owners.

Animal-drawn Vehicles / Equines on Roads

Is an ‘animal-drawn’ vehicle, a vehicle?

46.— The Act of 1961 is amended—

(a) in section 3(1), by substituting for the definition of “vehicle” (inserted by section 71(c) of the Act of 2010) the following:

“ ‘vehicle’ means a mechanically propelled vehicle, a trailer or semi-trailer, an animal-drawn vehicle or a pedal cycle;”,


(b) in section 54 (as amended by section 4 (1) of the Road Traffic (No. 2) Act 2011 )—

(i) by substituting “vehicle or a combination of vehicles” for “vehicle” in each place that it occurs, and

(ii) by inserting after subsection (5) the following:

“(6) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section involving a combination of vehicles it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that the owner of the mechanically propelled vehicle was also the owner of any vehicle or vehicles drawn thereby at the time of the alleged offence.”.

S. 46 Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Act 2012

Prohibition on Animal Cruelty

Driving a horse on tarmac at speed (especially a young horse, where the skeleton has not fully formed), is not conducive to equine welfare, however proving an animal is suffering unnecessarily can be difficult without a veterinary report. It is an offence to be reckless regarding the health or welfare of an animal:

12.—(1) A person shall not—

(a) do, or fail to do, anything or cause or permit anything to be done to an animal that causes unnecessary suffering to, or endanger the health or welfare of, an animal, or

(b) neglect, or be reckless, regarding the health or welfare of an animal.

(2) A person who contravenes this section commits an offence.

S. 12 Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013

There may also be concerns regarding the use of performance enhancement drugs on horses used in road racing.

Irish legislation is unfortunately not prescriptive with regard to the minimum age a horse or donkey should be drawing an animal-drawn vehicle, however the UK DEFRA Code of Practice states:

“It is recommended that any horse which is to be used for the carriage of passengers should be at least 6 years old.”

DEFRA Code of practice for horse-drawn vehicles

Causing a Nuisance, Not Under Adequate Control or Posing a Danger or Threat to Health or Welfare

“37.—(1) An authorised person or a member of the Garda Síochána may seize and detain any horse that the person or member has reason to suspect is—

(b) causing a nuisance, or

(c) not under adequate control, or

(d) posing a danger to persons or property, or

(e) posing a threat to the health and welfare of persons or other animals”

S. 37 Control of Horses Act 1996

Careless Driving

S.52 Road Traffic Act, 1961

Dangerous Driving

S. 53 Road Traffic Act, 1961

Road Racing – Requirement to Obtain a Road Racing Licence

It can be very difficult for a Garda to prove that a race has taken place, however, “(4) Any person who contravenes subsection (2) or a notice under subsection (3) shall be guilty of an offence.”:

“(2) A person who intends to hold, organise or promote a road race shall give at least one month’s notice (or such other period of notice as may be prescribed by the Minister) in writing to the road authority and to the Superintendent of the Garda Síochána within whose district the road race is to be held.”

S. 74 of the Roads Act 1993

Hand Signals

Drivers of horse-drawn vehicles must use the same hand signals as riders.


The horse-drawn vehicle must have two red rear reflectors. At night, the horse-drawn
vehicle must also carry a lamp on the right-hand side of the vehicle showing a
white light to the front and a red light to the back.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs

You must not drive a horse-drawn vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
or drugs. Do not ride, lead or drive a horse while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Animals on a Motorway

“animals and invalid carriages are not allowed on motorways in Ireland”.

Citizen’s Information

Further information from the Road Safety Authority (view PDF).

Horses in ‘Control Area’

A ‘control area’ is typically a local authority’s functional area, usually an urban area. See local bye-laws for exact area. The following legislation covers the keeping of horses in a control area, licensing, prohibition on straying, causing a nuisance, danger.

Control of Horses Act 1996 and Control of Horses Bye-laws (per local authority)

Equine Related Organisations

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