Horses are being sold for as little as £5 in Bradford, the RSPCA warned today.

It has resulted in a growing number of the animals being owned by people who neither have the skills nor the means to look after them properly.

According to charity’s figures, its cruelty line received 656 complaints about horse welfare in the Bradford district last year.

The RSPCA equine co-ordinator, chief inspector Cathy Hyde, said: “It is a growing problem.

“There is such a surplus of horses as they are being overbred and sold very, very cheaply. Some ponies are changing hands for as little £5 in private venues.

“They are being sold to people who don’t have the knowledge to look after them properly. People who never imagined they would own a horse are doing so. Some people are even keeping them in their gardens.”

The glut of horses has also led to a growing number of loose horses in the district.

Yesterday, Bradford Police Horse Watch appealed for information via its social media page on Twitter about two horses found in Clayton.

Nationally, it is costing the RSPCA £4 million a year to take in abandoned and mistreated horses.

One of the suggestions it has made is for the Government to introduce legislation to target fly grazing as no existing laws adequately address the problem.

It is also calling for more enforcement on getting horses microchipped and registered with a passport to try to counter the rising problem of animals being abandoned after a cheap sale.

Nationally, about three-quarters of the horses the charity takes in do not have a passport meaning their owners cannot be traced and they don’t have the up-to-date records about the animals’ history.

The charity said it has “deep concerns” with the absence of the passport system.

Chief Insp Hyde said: “The passport system is failing. They are not updated and, without microchipping or a central database, there is no enforcement.

“Our inspectors investigated more than 4,900 complaints involving equines in 2012 and are always working hard to improve the lives of those animals.

“Together with irresponsible breeding, many owners have ended up with too many horses that they either can’t or don’t want to look after.

“Some dealers have more than 2,000 horses, the majority of which will not have passports.

“They need to be made accountable which proper enforcement of the passport system might help with.”