A SENIOR councillor has backed plans to clamp down on horse owners who allow their animals to graze illegally on council land.
Hartlepool Borough Council is taking action after concerns about animal welfare and the risk that the horses pose to members of the public.
It is thought that more than 20 horses could be illegally grazing on council land across town.
There have been reports of horses grazing illegally at several locations including West View, Central Estate, Brenda Road, Golden Flatts and Seaton Carew.
Labour councillor Robbie Payne, portfolio holder for finance and procurement, approved plans to appoint a specialist horse impounding contractor at a recent meeting.
The contractor will work alongside the council’s environmental enforcement team to clamp down on horses grazing illegally.
A report to the meeting said: “The issue of illegal horse grazing has been long standing in Hartlepool.
“Generally, the presence of illegal horse grazing can be unsightly, especially adjacent to main access routes and creates a negative image for the town as well as raising concerns for animal welfare and other health and safety issues.”
Before removing any horse, the council will arrange for a seven-day eviction notice to be erected.
If the animal is not removed within the seven days it will be then be impounded at a safe location by the council.
Horse owners will then have to pay a fee to have their horses returned but, if they do not come forward, the horses will be sold at auction.
But Coun Payne also asked officers if it was possible for enforcement action to be carried out straight away should any horses be found to be illegally tethered and grazing.
Coun Payne said: “If a horse injures a member of the public on council land then we would be liable.
“It is important to tackle this as there is a financial risk to the council for insurance purposes.”
Officers agreed to look into it.
Anyone wanting to report a tethered horse should call (01429) 523227 or email email@example.com