The British Horse Society has a network of nearly 200 Welfare Officers throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
A very important part of the work of the BHS is that done by our volunteer welfare officers. These officers investigate reported welfare concerns and act as an advice point for all horse owners. Through the work of our welfare officers, the lives of literally thousands of horses have been improved.
The British Horse Society divides the UK into 13 regions, each of which has its own Regional Welfare Officer (RWO). The role of the RWO is, among other things, to oversee and co-ordinate the welfare work that goes on within their region.
Each BHS region is divided into counties, with each county having a different number of County Welfare Representatives (CWRs). The number of CWRs in a county will depend upon several factors including its size, the number of horses within its boundaries and the willingness of people to volunteer for the role. Our highly experienced RWOs act as a constant source of guidance and support for the CWRs. The BHS has nearly 200 CWRs, which means that we have superb nationwide coverage and are usually able to respond to reported welfare concerns promptly.
All RWOs and CWRs are experienced horse people and are fully (and regularly) trained specifically for their welfare work by The British Horse Society. All officers carry an official BHS identification card – anyone who is not able to produce an identification card should not be considered as acting on behalf of the BHS.
The Role of BHS Welfare Officers
When a welfare concern is reported to us, the relevant CWR or RWO will visit the horse(s) in question and assess the situation. What happens next will depend on the outcome of this first visit:
- In serious cases the BHS Officer will liaise and work with enforcement organisations (such as the local authority) or other welfare charities (for example, World Horse Welfare or the RSPCA) to ensure that swift and appropriate action is taken
- Where the welfare officer feels that the horse’s welfare is compromised, but not severely, they will attempt to locate and contact the animal’s owner. The British Horse Society is unique in being able to work with owners over a long period of time to provide support and education to ensure the horse’s welfare
- In some cases, the Welfare Officer will take no immediate action but continue to monitor the horse(s) in question
- The Welfare Officer may feel that no action is needed. While this may not please the person who reported the concern, it is important to remember that Welfare Officers are fully trained in both the law and acceptable standards. People keep horses in many different ways; we may not agree with some of these, but this does not mean that welfare is being compromised.
BHS Welfare Officers are also an information point for any owner who has questions about their own horses or who needs support through a difficult time. They are also an excellent source of local contacts, and therefore may be able to put owners in touch with each other.
Many BHS Welfare Officers are involved in delivering training to other organisations, such as the emergency services or local authority Animal Welfare Inspectors.
There are some restrictions on what a BHS Welfare Officer can do. For example, as we do not have a rescue centre, the BHS cannot take on rescued or unwanted horses and ponies. However, our officers will have contact with other organisations and local individuals, so they may be able to help out when an emergency home is needed.
If you have a welfare concern, here's how to report it.
To find your regional and county reps and ask them any questions, visit your area page.
If you think that you would be interested in becoming a BHS Welfare Officer, find out how to volunteer.