A MAJOR operation is underway on farmland near Darlington to rescue more than dozen horses.

Animal welfare officers launched an investigation into the treatment of the 19 horses after a foal collapsed and had to be put to sleep.

The RSPCA has taken possession of the animals and removed three others for veterinary treatment after being called to a field at Coatham Mundeville last night.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "The RSPCA is currently removing 19 horses from a field at a property in Coatham Mundeville, Darlington because of concerns for their welfare.

"We were called to the scene last night.

"A foal, which was collapsed, has been put to sleep by a vet and a further three horses have been removed for vet treatment.

"The animals have been taken into possession by police on veterinary advice and placed in RSPCA care.

"No further information is available at this time as our investigation is ongoing."