Sandwell horse crackdown for the next two years
A controversial policy of seizing roaming horses from public land in a Black Country borough will continue for the next two years, a council boss has pledged.
Sandwell Council has appointed a new company to tackle the long-running problem, with the contract running until March 2016.
The authority has come in for criticism for its policy on seizing roaming and tethered horses, which was launched three years ago.
Critics say it runs against the tradition of keeping tethered horses which has been part of Tipton's history.
The latest move comes after six roaming horses were reported on the open land known locally as The Cracker, near to the gully in between homes on Oval Road in Tipton, earlier this week.
Councillor Ian Jones, the borough's jobs and economy boss, said: "We are asking all our horse owners to be responsible.
"Roaming horses are not acceptable at all and they will be seized.
"We will be mindful of the welfare of the animals but they are dangerous while they are roaming so they will need to be taken away."
In response to the policy, horse owners have previously threatened legal action and have taken to the streets in a series of marches, disrupting traffic with caravans and horse-drawn carts.
However, Sandwell Council has stood by the policy, saying the horses pose a threat to safety.
In March last year, an investigation found that only one of the 51 horses seized in the borough had been successfully returned to its owner.
Councillor Jones added a recent survey had shown there were more than 20 horses tethered on council land, and half of them were discovered to be micro-chipped.
He said: "We will be taking enforcement action as appropriate in those cases as they are micro-chipped.
"Wherever they are across the borough, we will be carrying on doing as we have previously and seizing any roaming horses."
Sandwell's problem is one of the biggest being dealt with in the West Midlands and also affects Dudley.
Despite Sandwell's policy having been in place since 2011, council chiefs say some horse owners are continuing to flout the rules, with Princes End, in Tipton, among the worst-affected areas.
More than 100 of horses have been removed by the council in the past three years. The council has spent tens of thousands of pounds on bailiffs to enforce the policy - the previous company Rossendales cost more than £45,000 over two years.
Bosses say their safety concerns from roaming horses include traffic problems and injuries to pedestrians.
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