A clampdown on fly grazing has seen incidents tumble by 87 per cent in York.
The number of horses tethered on council land, in particular on roadside grass verges, had been on the increase in the area.
It led to concerns about the potential for motorists to be involved in accidents with the animals, while the horses’ welfare has also been a worry.
Fly grazing is also a problem that effects other areas of Yorkshire and the growing concern has prompted York Outer MP Julian Sturdy to work with other MPs towards bringing a bill before Parliament. The proposed bill will call for fly grazing to be made a criminal offence - a measure that the National Farmers’ Union is keen to see adopted.
In the meantime York Council has taken decisive action to stamp out the menace on public land.
In February, council leaders appointed a licensed contractor to post warning notices at the sites of illegally-tethered horses, advising owners that if the animals are not removed within 14 days then they will be impounded. If impounded, owners have 14 days to claim them back and all associated costs must be paid before the horse is returned.
Since the contractor started work on February 3, some 48 notices have been posted and seven horses have been impounded.
The initiative appears to be proving to be a deterrent. Twenty-three horses were discovered during the contractor’s first monthly inspection but subsequent inspections have found between two and four horses illegally tethered on council-owned land.
Significantly fewer reports of fly grazing have been made by private landowners, residents or by other council services, York Council said.
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, cabinet member for homes and safer communities, said: “In accordance with a joint protocol, we will continue with this successful course of action, and to work with horse and landowners, the police, RSPCA and the NFU to promote best practice around tethered horses.
“Work will also continue with the RSPCA and horse welfare charities to develop micro chipping options and look at opportunities for a re-homing service.”
Lucinda Douglas, the NFU’s local county adviser, said: “We are really delighted to hear how successful this initiative is being, as it comes largely on the back of a long-running campaign by local farmers, in particular local dairy farmer David Shaw, and the NFU in collaboration with Julian Sturdy MP.
“The close working relationship established between the farming community and the council has highlighted the regularity, location and dangers of fly-grazing, helping the council develop its policy which has proved so successful.
“Of course York is not the only area experiencing problems with fly-grazing and we are working with a number of other local authorities keen to address the issue.
“We are also continuing our efforts with Julian Sturdy MP to make fly-grazing a criminal offence. As a result of this work a number of other MPs nationwide are now helping us progress towards a bill to go before Parliament.”
According to the NFU, in the case of an estimated 70 per cent of all abandoned horses, investigations prove fruitless in trying to identify their owners.
This means there is little recourse when a tethered horse is involved in a vehicle accident or causes damage to private property.
Because of these difficulties, the NFU is working with the Government and World Horse Welfare to try and ensure there is a single database for all horses, with owners legally required to register their animals and hold a horse passport – much as already happens for cattle.