THE day of the urban cowboy may be over with the signing into force yesterday of the Control of Horses Act, 1996, which is designed to rein in warning horses and their owners.
All horses will have to be licensed from March 18th and a microchip inserted in the neck by a vet so it can be identified. This service will cost £25 and no licence can be given to under 16 year olds, said Mr Jimmy Deenihan, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, yesterday.
The Act has introduced a "three strikes and you're out" rule. A horse found wandering for the third time will be confiscated and sold or destroyed by the local authority.
The Minister said while he accepted horse ownership was and remained part of the traditional fabric of city life, especially in Dublin, uncontrolled horses represented a potential risk to life and property.
The Act, he said, gave far reaching powers to local authorities to introduce controls on where animals could be kept, and under it horses could be banned from districts or beaches.
He said he expected local authorities, which will be getting £2 million to implement the scheme, to have exclusion areas around all motorways.
Local authorities would be able, he said, to exclude horses from open spaces at certain times of the day, or ban them from such areas permanently.
The Minister said the Act was not aimed at the travelling community, because the latest research showed horse ownership in urban areas was as popular among settled people as travellers.
He produced figures to show that the problem of wandering horses was increasing rather than declining, and that south Co Dublin had the biggest problem in the State.
The number of wandering horses in the South Dublin County Council area had grown from 600 in April 1995 to 2,100 last January.
He said the local authority regulations would take some months to come into force because two months notice would have to be given.