More than 230 stray horses have been taken off the streets of one Black Country borough in less than a year, figures have revealed.
Dudley Council bosses said that a campaign by police and the authority to control the problem of stray horses on the streets had been a “resounding success”.
Duncan Lowndes, Dudley Council’s assistant director of culture and leisure, said the issue of illegal grazing on council land and stray horses had been “endemic” in the Black Country for decades with irresponsible owners tethering or leaving their animals to roam on parks, sports pitches, nature reserves and other open land.
Members of the public complained about damage to property and the horses being a danger to motorists. In September last year the council entered into an arrangement with the police whereby horses can be removed from public roads in as part of a so-called “reactive bailiff” scheme.
And Mr Lowndes said that since the policy had been introduced the problem of stray horses had decreased. He said that between April 2011 and January this year, there had been a total of 237 horses removed. Of these, 171 have been re-homed, 59 were waiting to be re-homed and seven had been returned to their owners.
Over the past year the number of calls to the council’s “stray horse hotline” had also “reduced dramatically”, he added.
But he said the battle was not yet over. “In general terms the policy has paid dividends,” he added. “Fens Pool Nature Reserve and other green areas seem to have a problem from time to time and there are still issues.
“We looked at a zero tolerance policy but decided that was unlikely to be possible because every horse taken off the road costs a considerable amount of money and the problem would recur after a day or two. We’re working with the RSPCA and desperately want to improve the standards of animal welfare but we have to realise there are certain owners who don’t prioritise that as we would want them to.”
Just weeks ago, Brierley Hill couple Walter, Amanda and their son Kevin Hickman were convicted of neglecting four of their horses which were kept at Fens Pool Nature Reserve.
Councillor Ken Turner said: “You’ll never remove the problem but we’ve moved very far forward and areas of the country will be looking at us as a benchmark and using what we did to see how they can move forward.”
Councillor Dave Tyler said: “This is an issue that will rumble on way after we’ve left this council.”
During the horse meat scandal farmers raised fears that stray horses from Tipton were being shipped out and ending up in the food chain but the claims were rubbished by council bosses.