YORK council bosses are to be asked to approve plans for dealing with stray horses which could include the power to seize the animals.
Three incidents of loose horses wandering into the path of cars have been reported in the city this year. City of York Council has said the number of complaints and incidents surrounding horses being tethered next to roads and footpaths had risen in recent months.
Its cabinet will next week discuss a set of proposals which include drawing up a “joint protocol” with the police, RSPCA, landowners and travellers to specify their responsibilities, looking at whether council or private land could be specifically allocated for grazing, developing a microchipping and rehoming service and banning horses from being tethered on council land unless an agreement is signed.
If approved, the authority could also have the “zero tolerance” option of seizing horses which are tethered or grazing illegally as a last resort, although officers have said this could be expensive and “counter-productive”. A report by Steve Waddington, assistant director for housing and community safety, said each seizure could cost at least £1,000 and it may not be possible to reclaim the money if the animal’s owner cannot be traced, as any subsequent sale of the horse might not cover costs.
“Where a horse is tethered in such a way that it is cruel to the horse or it creates a danger, this cannot be tolerated,” said the report.
“It is felt a more balanced approach, providing grazing land and looking to rehome horses, would be appropriate.
“However, there may be occasions where it is felt the location of a tethered horse constitutes a danger to the horse itself or others, including road users.”
Mr Waddington said horses could be seized if there was a health and safety risk, and while most horse-owners were “responsible”, others illegally tethered their animals to avoid grazing charges or food costs. It recommended that the “joint protocol” should be ready for analysis in February.
Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters, who has called for action on stray horses, said: “All this is doing is kicking the can down the road without coming up with any effective enforcement. It is pussyfooting around an issue which is a clear danger and creates the risk of litigation being taken against the council in cases of accidents.”