A MAJOR clampdown has been launched on illegally grazing horses following 250 complaints about strays so far this year.
Hartlepool Borough Council has teamed up with organisations including Cleveland Police, RSPCA and the British Horse Society after being left with “no alternative” but to take “zero tolerance” action.
Owners will now be asked to remove their horses which are illegally tethered and if they don’t oblige, a professional horse bailiff company will be used to move the animals.
No horses will be removed until all fees due have been paid and any horses left unclaimed after two weeks will then become property of the bailiffs.
A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “It is unfortunate that we have been forced to take action in this way however the problem has reached such a scale that we have been left with no alternative but to take steps to safeguard public safety and the welfare of the horses.
“Many horses are tethered near to busy roads and it concerns us that they could pose a serious safety risk should they break free.
“Horses have also been known to bite or kick members of the public.”
The clampdown has started with a pilot operation in the King Oswy area with notices posted on council land, but it is intended to roll out the initiative to other parts of the town.
The council spokesman acknowledged that tethering of horses is not in itself illegal, but is not recommended as a method of containing horses for more than very brief periods.
Inspector Paul Haytack, of Cleveland Police, said: “We have had over 250 calls relating to stray horses in Hartlepool since the beginning of this year.
“Some of the calls were from drivers about horses being loose on the roads while others raised concerns over the tethered horses.
“We have even had calls from people telling us they have seen emergency services vehicles having to swerve to avoid loose horses.
“We have also had instances of officers being called to streets and being faced with a free-running horse that they have had to try and get under control.”
Anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a tethered horse should call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.