Horses that were fly-grazing on flood banks next to the River Don have been removed to ensure public safety.
In an operation carried out last night, the Environment Agency worked with police and agents acting on their behalf to remove the 12 horses from flood defences near Thorne.
The animals had been placed on the flood banking without the permission of the Environment Agency, which owns the land.
While there, the animals have been causing damage to the flood defences, and preventing vital maintenance of the banking by flood defence technicians.
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “Fly-grazing can cause significant problems for landowners. It can put businesses at risk and in this case the presence of the animals has prevented vital flood defence work along the banks of the River Don.
“The owners of these horses have been asked repeatedly to move them, and they have been clearly warned that failure to do so would result in action being taken to have them removed.
“This problem of fly-grazing has persisted at this location for some time. This has resulted in recurring costs to the taxpayer in additional flood bank maintenance. Officers have also spent a significant amount of time attempting to persuade the owners remove the animals.
“Operations of this nature are only ever carried out as a last resort. We would prefer not to have to move the horses ourselves, but the problem has persisted for so long that we have no other option but to take action.
“In this first operation, we have removed only a limited number of animals to give the owners of other horses the chance to remove them themselves. We hope this operation demonstrates our determination to have the animals moved on, one way or another.
The horses that were removed have been taken to proper livery stables where they will receive medical checks and treatment.
The owners of the horses will have the opportunity to reclaim them, subject to a charge to help cover the cost of the removal operation.