Grazing raid grabs horses.
EIGHTEEN horses illegally tethered or grazing loose on public land in South Bank were removed in an early hours swoop.
Specialist bailiffs with expertise in removing horses carried out the enforcement action yesterday on behalf of Redcar and Cleveland Council.
Several attempts to contact the owners and encourage them to make appropriate arrangements had failed. Cleveland Police supported the operation, which passed without incident.
A council spokesman said: "The council and the police take a firm line on horses that are illegally tethered or fly grazing on public land. We are committed to dealing with the problem and further enforcement operations are likely.
"Horses left to roam freely pose a risk to themselves and motorists, and there are particular concerns over horses that are being left near children's play areas.
"We would prefer owners to make suitable arrangements to ensure their animals are safe and looked after, rather than take enforcement action. However, we would also urge members of the public to report stray horses to the council, police or their housing provider."
Following the enforcement action, notices were posted stating the horses had been impounded and instructing owners on how they could have them returned. Owners have until Tuesday, April 8, to claim their animals, but must meet the cost of livery, transport and microchipping as well as an inspection by a vet.
The move is the latest in a long-running row over the numbers of illegally tethered horses in the South Bank and Grangetown areas of Teesside. A police-led partnership, the Joint Equine Group, was set up to tackle the problem.
When the equine group formed in March 2012 there were between 200 and 250 horses recorded as tethered or kept in gardens, within a one-and-ahalf mile radius. But only one was abandoned.
Ponies are being kept on free land - from wasteland to an allotment site - which is either council or privately owned.
Hotspot sites in Grangetown included public land in an area known as Mushroom Grove as well as Argyle Road and Bevanlee Road in South Bank.
Tethering is not specifi-cally illegal in itself, but the RSPCA does not recommend it as away to keep a horse.
In October last year, the Gazette reported how South Bank four-year-old Lewis Harrison was kicked in the head by an untethered horse on land off Passfield Crescent, just a few hundred yards away from his home.