COUNCIL bosses have removed five horses from land after it was found they were grazing illegally.
Hartlepool Council instructed bailiffs to remove the animals from land near to the B&Q store, off Brenda Road, after the horses strayed onto the road and caused problems with traffic.
They are now being kept at stables where they will remain for 14 days before being re-homed - unless they are reclaimed by their owners.
Hartlepool Council has adopted a zero tolerance approach to illegally grazing horses amid concerns over public safety and animal welfare.
A Hartlepool Council spokeswoman said: “We hope this latest removal of horses will serve as a reminder to the owners of our determination to tackle this problem.
“Horses are often tethered near busy roads and it worries us that they could pose a serious risk to public safety should they break free. Horses have also been known to bite or kick members of the public.
“We also have concerns about the general welfare of many of these illegally grazing horses and the conditions in which they are being kept.”
The council is working in partnership with a number of organisations to tackle the problem, including Cleveland Police, the RSPCA and the British Horse Society.
Officials are also concerned at the number of people buying horses as pets, with the spokeswoman adding: “More and more people seem to be getting horses on a whim because they are cheap.
“However, it takes a lot of specialist knowledge to care properly for a horse and many animals end up suffering because owners don’t know how to look after them.” People can report a tethered horse to the local authority by ringing (01429) 523333. In an emergency – if a horse is injured or in distress – they should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.