RESIDENTS have spoken of their disgust after the carcasses of seven ponies were dumped at various sites across County Durham in the past fortnight.

Three were discovered on Thursday at West Auckland and Leasingthorne near Bishop Auckland and Bishopton, near Sedgefield.

Another had to be removed from the River Wear in Durham City earlier this month. The details of the locations of the other three carcasses was unavailable last night.

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Residents living near Oakley Green in West Auckland were horrified to find a dead pony in a storm drain running alongside a public footpath just 50 yards from a housing estate.

Peter Macintyre said: “It is horrific to see, and what’s really worrying is it is on a route to a primary school so children will be able to see it.”

Another Oakley Green resident said: “It is sick and disgusting that people feel it is okay to do this sort of thing.

“It does not look like the pony was well looked after before it died.”

Durham County Council is investigating whether the animals are microchipped, as they should be by law.

Ian Hoult, neighbourhood protection manager at the council, said: “Not only is this dumping an extremely unpleasant act, it is very distressing for the members of the public finding them and for the staff called to respond.

“Having seven dumped may be a coincidence, but regardless, it is something we wish to see stopped.”

Leanne Plumtree, of the RSPCA, said the dumping of ponies and horses is a symptom of a much bigger issue.

“We are in the middle of a national horse crisis right now, there are far more horses than there are responsible owners," she added.

“A huge number of horses are not having their needs met, and those people who are not prepared for the horse to be looked after in life will not want to pay for it to be removed after it has died.”

Ms Plumtree said owners are obligated by law to call a knacker man to remove a dead horse, but it is a service for which they must pay.

“It is a significant cost that is then passed on to whoever owns the land where the horse is dumped.”

Ms Plumtree said the RSPCA would investigate cases where it would appear the horse has been ill-treated or neglected prior to its death.

Information about horses can be reported to the council at horses@durham.gov.uk or by calling the switchboard 03000-261000 and asking for streetscene.