Charities in the Southampton area are concerned that they may be inundated with unwanted horses after councillors voted through tough regulations regarding loose and nuisance ponies.

At a meeting in January, it was agreed that horses, ponies and donkeys who escape from their tethers, cause damage, kick and bite passersby, will be impounded if owners do not agree with three-day improvement notices.

If the horses are reclaimed, the owners will be asked to pay the costs incurred by the council for keeping them.

If they are not claimed after seven days the council will dispose of the horses “at open market”.

“In theory, it sounds like a good idea, but in practice I don’t think it will work as the horses are worth so little,” said Fay Allan of Southampton Horse and Pony Rescue. “They are mostly small coloured cobs and hairy native ponies.”

This is not the only charity concerned that the horses’ owners will not pay to recover their animals and that any unfit to sell may end up being placed with charities.

Ann Hillman of the St Francis Animal Welfare said: “The number of tethered and seemingly unattended horses and ponies in the city is a real concern, but we would probably not be able to take them in if asked by the city council. We just don’t have the room.”

The annual May Wickham Horse Fair attracts hundreds of people and horses to this small village close to Southampton and many extra animals are tethered around the city in the weeks before.

Miss Allan’s mother, Lynn, who is on-site manager for Southampton Horse and Pony Rescue, said: “The council is talking about having a compound in the New Forest where they will keep these horses, but that will need full-time staff, stables and feed, and I can’t see where the money is going to come from.

“Small charities like ourselves could get called upon to take the horses in and that could put us out of business.”

She was also concerned that angry owners of the horses could turn up at the charity to try to recover their animals.

However, Phil Williams of Southampton City Council said that since their announcement, the problem seems to be decreasing.

“We have eight to 12 horses on areas of land around the city and have had problems with them being left on their tethers, biting members of the public and causing damage,” he said. “But it seems to be becoming less of a problem.”

So far no improvement notices have been issued or horses impounded, but he said the council hopes to find any unwanted animals “loving homes where they will be looked after properly” — and each case will be considered separately.