A DEAD horse has sparked concerns about the welfare of animals in a field between rural County Durham villages.

Durham County Council (DCC) and the RSPCA were made aware of the dead horse lying in a wooded area of a field alongside the B1278, north of Trimdon Grange, on Thursday. Ian Hoult, neighbourhood protection manager at DCC, said: “We were made aware of the dead horse [on Thursday] night and our neighbourhood wardens visited the site [on Friday] morning.

“Upon arrival, the wardens established that the land was privately owned and the dead horse was in the process of being removed. We will be contacting the landowner to discuss this matter.”

Residents in the area said were “distressed” at the sight of the dead horse and raised fears about the health of the other horses in the field.

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We’re aware of these horses and share concerns put forward by the local community. We’d like to reassure people we have made visits to assess the horses, and will continue to do so, but the RSPCA has to act within the law.

“Horses can only be removed by the police and then placed into RSPCA care when a vet has supported allegations that animals have either suffered or are likely to suffer if they remain where they are.

“The welfare of these horses is very important to us. There is often a lot of work going on behind the scenes to improve animal welfare, even when we cannot publicise the work due to legal, data protection or other reasons.”

Durham Police attended a report of a loose horse in the area on October 24.

Anyone with concerns should call the 24-hour cruelty line on 0300-1234999.