Of 146 stray horses seized by Bradford Council in the past three years, only three have been reclaimed by their owners.

And since April 2011 the scheme to rid streets and spaces of illegally tethered and roaming horses has cost £214,755 of taxpayers’ money.

Concerned Baildon councillor and horse owner Debbie Davies asked at a full council meeting how much the Council spends each year on rounding up stray horses and if any of these costs are recovered from the owners of the horses.

And she has now got a detailed response which shows the lack of effort made to recover any of the impounded animals.

Coun Davies (Con, (Baildon) said: “I know that the job of seizing the horses has to go ahead as they can be serious danger to traffic.

“But it just seems so sad that people have animals that, when it comes down to it, they don’t really care about.

“Anyone can take a photo of themselves with their horse which could be used as evidence of ownership.

“I just fear it’s the case that people can’t be bothered.”

The information she received was:

  •   in 2011/12 the total spend was £78,532 and 39 horses were impounded
  •   in 2012/13 the total spend was £68,531 with 51 horses impounded
  •  to date in 2013/14 spend is £67,692 with 56 horses impounded
  •  in the three years out-lined above, only three horses have been re-claimed by their owners.

Explaining the cost totalling £214,755 the Council said: “The costs of impoundment operations include a 14-day livery period, in addition to the costs of the impoundment operation itself.”

During that 14-day period an owner can reclaim their horse subject to satisfactory proof of ownership, and payment of a release fee.

That fee comprises the cost of the impoundment operation plus the costs of returning the horse back to its owner. On the figures given, that means an average bill of at least £1,471 per horse.

At a recent environment and waste management meeting Coun Zameer Hussain Shah noted there was little incentive for people to pay such sums when a horse could be bought for £300.

John Major, the Council’s assistant director for environmental and regulatory services, told the meeting: “Not a lot of people come forward, but we believe this is something we have to take a lead on. We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.”

When asked why it cost so much to impound a horse, Mr Major said the cost of manpower, vehicles, the 14-day livery period and the price of a vet check meant it was “not a cheap business”.

At the end of the 14-day period, the horses are re-homed or sold and only destroyed as a last resort, said Mr Major.

He also stressed the animals would not end up in the human food chain.