MP's offer life-line for equine businesses
YORKSHIRE DALES riding schools hit by soaring insurance costs may be thrown a lifeline later this month when Parliament debates a new Bill which, hopefully, will cut costs and save more schools from closure.
The Bill, drafted by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), will remedy the spiraling costs of insurance, which has already forced the closure of several riding schools and equestrian centres, affecting tourism and the rural economy. It will go before the House on June 27.
The decline in stables and riding schools is directly linked to the law that makes owners liable for incidents even when their animals display "normal" behaviour.
The Animal Act 1971 was intended to make owners of dangerous animals - lions, tigers and deadly snakes - or a specific psychotic domestic animal, liable for harm or damage. But a 2003 legal judgment ruled that owners were liable for damage and the consequences of normal animal behaviour.
This in effect ruled out the possibility of an accident when, say, a perfectly placid riding school mount is "spooked" by a back-firing car. Farmers can also be held liable if a cow acts aggressively to protect a calf and injures a dog walker or a rambler.
Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire who is introducing the Bill with the backing of a large group of Yorkshire MPs, says: "Higher insurance premiums have threatened the commercial viability of many riding establishments, so I'm grateful to the CLA for highlighting this critical issue."
CLA Yorkshire's regional director, Dorothy Fairburn, said: "This Bill will remedy a situation that has seen some equine businesses being effectively been put out of business overnight through vast increases in insurance costs and in some cases, an inability to obtain insurance at all.
"The Government supports the principle of the Bill and the CLA will continue to work hard to ensure that it goes through all of its stages to become statute."
The Bill also has the support of a number of equine and farming organisations. David Dugdale, President Elect of the British Equine Veterinary Association said, 'BEVA are delighted to support this initiative and hope a measure of proportionality can be restored to those owning horses and running equestrian businesses.'