TAXPAYERS are being forced to foot the bill for removing abandoned dead horses found on public land.

Durham County Council issued the warning after two dead horses were found near Witton-le-Wear and Shildon this week – bringing the total to nine since the start of the month.

Officers are urging owners to think about the need for responsible horse ownership and welfare as it costs £120 each time a dead horse is discovered.

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They said the number of horses grazing illegally on council owned land, private land and loose horses roaming freely, has risen in recent years.

This week a black and white animal was found on the track leading to Low Garth Farm, near Witton-le-Wear and a brown and white animal was dumped near the top of Brussleton Bank, Brussleton, near Shildon.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 an animal must have a suitable environment to live in, have a healthy diet, able to behave normally, have appropriate company and protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

In 2004, regulations were introduced which meant all horse owners were required to obtain a passport for each horse they own. This was revised in 2009 to introduce compulsory micro-chipping and passporting for foals and any previously unidentified horses.

Ian Hoult, neighbourhood protection manager at Durham County Council, said: “Stray or loose horses can cause danger to members of the public and illegal horse grazing has become more problematic in recent years.

“Not only does this affect public safety, but horse welfare is also of concern.

“We have the power to seize horses that are grazing on council land; however, we urge all horse owners to be responsible in caring for their horse and provide appropriate, legal grazing land, suitable to its needs.

“Apart from the upset it causes to members of the public finding these animals and of course the staff that have to attend to remove them, there is a significant cost involved in retrieving these horses and ponies.

“On average it costs the council around £120 per animal, depending on where the pony is and access. It’s not fair for council tax payers to have to fund this."

  • If you have cause for concern regarding a stray or tethered horse, report it in confidence by calling 03000-261-000 or emailing
  • Horses loose on roads should also be reported to the police.