The leader of Three Rivers District Council has defended the decision to shoot two stray horses after staff failed to capture them following a four-hour attempt.

Two stray horses were reported to police after being spotted galloping in Leavesden Country Park on Tuesday, March 4, by a member of the public.

District council officers were also alerted to the animals roaming free in the park unsupervised.

Despite efforts, district council staff, Hertfordshire Constabulary, and a horse welfare agency, were unable to round up the animals, and they were shot dead.

Figures obtained by the Watford Observer showed that the council "destroyed" eleven out of the 14 stray horses it captured last year.

Liberal Democrat leader, Ann Shaw, said the four-hour attempt to capture the animals in Leavesden Country Park signified a "huge effort by the council".

In a statement released by Three Rivers, councillor Shaw, explained that: "They (the horses) would not allow themselves to be approached or tempted by food. They appeared to be wild.

"Council staff proposed to build a corral the next morning and try and get control that way, but it would have meant leaving the ponies loose overnight and the police were very concerned about the danger of them going onto local roads.

"Eventually it was reluctantly decided that they must be put down and a slaughter man was called in. Each animal was killed with a single shot quickly and humanely under careful supervision.

"Assistance was provided by the horse welfare agency. The site was carefully cleaned the next morning. Sand was put over the disturbed area and later removed."


The horses were described as being an "immediate danger" to walkers and children, and there were concerns that they would stray onto local roads.

Councillor Shaw has stood by the decision to kill the horses.

She said: "What we usually do, under our Green Yard Scheme, is to capture them but we couldn’t even get to them.

"There was a huge effort by the council and by the police and equine agency. We were trying for four hours and that is a long time. It was getting dark.

"What else could they have done?"

No-one has since come forward to report missing animals. When horses are left unattended on council land, they are held 14 days and destroyed if no home can be found.

An FOI submitted by the Watford Observer revealed that, between January 2009 and January 2014, a total of 42 horses have been impounded within Three Rivers.

In 2013, 14 horses were captured in South Oxhey, with 11 being destroyed after no-one reclaimed them.

Three horses were found in Abbots Langely in January. If no one claimed them within two weeks, they too would have been destroyed. The fate of these horses has not been confirmed.