HORSE bailiffs have seized their first animals since being appointed by City of York Council to tackle illegal grazing.

Two are understood to have been removed from a site at Monks Cross and another five from land near the travellers' site at Osbaldwick.

The move has been welcomed by York Outer MP Julian Sturdy, who has been increasingly concerned about the welfare of such horses. He said he hoped there would now be a zero tolerance approach.

But a traveller from the Osbaldwick site, Peter Smith, has contacted The Press to complain that his two horses had been unfairly seized from a field at Monks Cross, claiming he had not been given any prior warning.

A 'notice of impoundment,' which he found at the site said the council had authorised the removal of horses illegally grazing and the animals had been impounded and were being cared for at a secure facility, with storage charges incurred.

The notice said Mr Smith had until April 3 to claim them back. Mr Smith claimed he tried to ring the number given on Friday afternoon but got no answer.

A council spokeswoman said the agent appointed to manage the problem of illegal grazing had removed seven horses from two different locations last week.

She said signs had previously been erected giving the owners of the horses 14 days to remove these animals.

"Unfortunately, the horses were not moved, leaving the council with no option but to remove them," she said. "North Yorkshire Police were briefed about the operation.

"If the owners wish to reclaim the horses, they will need to call 0844 8099355. They need to prove ownership of the animals, as well as paying any costs that have been incurred before the horses can be returned. Costs will vary depending on the length of time the horse is kept and whether any veterinary treatment was deemed necessary while the horses were impounded."

She said the council's primary concern was the safety of motorists, pedestrians and the tethered horses and it would work with local communities to identify 'hot spot' areas, such as that on the A166 near Dunnington, to see whether posting advance notices would be helpful.