Norfolk Police have linked up with Britain’s largest horse welfare charity, Redwings, in a pioneering initiative to deal with stray horses. A team of experienced horse handlers from Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Long Stratton will now be on-call round the clock to help police officers when a stray horse’s owners cannot be traced.

“I believe Norfolk Police are the first Police force in the country to approach a charity for help of this kind,” said Nicola Markwell, spokeswoman for Redwings. “We’ve worked together a couple of times in the past and it has been very successful so we have formalised the arrangements.”

This new partnership will put a stop to situations where police officers with no previous equine experience have had to round up stray animals and stay with them for several hours while their owners are being traced. Often stray horses are not used to being handled and controlling them can be very difficult.

The way police handle incidents of escaped or abandoned horses will not change; the first priority will still be to try and track the owner, either through Farm Watch or people with local knowledge. But failing this, police will now benefit from the help of Redwings’ experts with professional equipment to round up horses and a safe location to house them.

Inspector Gary Crowther from Norfolk Police said: “The scheme enables the horse to be recovered safely, no-one is hurt in the process and the animal is reunited with the owner. If necessary we would also deal with any offences relating to horses straying onto the carriageway putting road-users in danger.”

According to Redwings, horses (particularly stallions) often stray because of unsuitable or damaged fencing but there have been a number of cases where gates have been opened deliberately.

“It is an offence to allow a horse to stray on the highway,” warned Markwell, adding that in the case of negligence, owners will be required to pay all the costs of Redwings’ service.

Redwings chief executive, Lynn Cutress hopes the new agreement will increase the safety of both equines and the public. “We are delighted to be working with Norfolk police to protect equines and promote animal welfare in such a practical way,” she said.


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