Twenty six stray and tethered horses have been rescued in a multi-agency operation in Bishop Auckland today.
About 60 dogs and puppies have also been found on a suspected puppy farm.
The horses, which were illegally grazing on public land, were removed from Henson Close and a field to the rear of the Premier Inn in a police-led operation.
Search warrants were also executed under the Animal Welfare Act on a number of buildings at Green Lane where the suspected puppy farm was discovered.
The dogs and puppies, of various breeds, have all been seen to by a vet amid concern for their welfare. One horse found during the search was badly injured.
The police operation has been supported by specialist horse removal experts to carry out the enforcement action with support of partner agencies including Durham County Council.
The horses will be safely and securely rehomed outside of the region following veterinary checks, unless claimed by the owner.
Inspector Andy Reeves, of Bishop Auckland Neighbourhood Police Team, said: “The issue of horses straying in and around highways, being fly-grazed and tethered in public spaces in Bishop Auckland has certainly been a problem for our area.
“There have been a number of incidents involving horses which have presented significant risks to motorists, pedestrians, local residents and the animals themselves. It has also created problems for local land owners and farmers and it puts significant demand upon police resources. We have taken this action now due to the rise in incidents reported and as winter approaches, the welfare of the animals becoming more prevalent.
“We encourage the community to report incidents of fly grazing and tell us the people involved either by calling 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Speaking of the dogs found during the operation, Insp Reeves said: “Given the time of year with Christmas around the corner, we encourage people to buy puppies from a reputable breeder. Make sure you see the puppy with its mother, all the paperwork is in order and injections are up to date. If you are unsure speak to a vet.”
A Durham County Council spokesperson said: “Working together with our partners we are committed to tackling the issues that are important to our communities.
“We want to encourage horse and dog owners to look after their animals responsibly. If anyone has information about individuals allowing their horses to stray or they have concerns for an animal’s welfare, we’re urging them to please get in touch.”
Stray horses should be reported to Durham County Council. If they stray onto a public road or highway report it to the police on 101. Concerns about puppy farming should be reported to RSPCA.