FIVE horses that were grazing illegally on council-owned land have been removed by bailiffs as part of a major clampdown.
Two Shetland ponies were taken from the rear of Bruntoft Avenue, in Hartlepool, and three were removed from grassland on Old Cemetery Road.
It comes in the wake of more than 250 telephone calls to Cleveland Police complaining about stray horses in the town since the start of year.
The RSPCA has also been involved in 20 incidents involving the welfare of horses in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council has been working with the police, the RSPCA and the British Horse Society to find a solution to the problem.
A council spokesman said: “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 spokesman added that the removed horses will be held for 14 days to be reclaimed, and none will be released until all fees due have been paid and any left unclaimed after 14 days will become the property of the bailiffs.
The clampdown is now set to be rolled out town-wide.
To report a tethered horse to the council ring (01429) 523333.