A MAN claiming to be the owner of a pony seized by council officers says he wants his pet back – and he insists he never abandoned her.
Homeless Lee Robertson left the miniature Shetland pony on South Tyneside Council-owned land behind Felton Avenue, South Shields, last month.
The 33-year-old, evicted from his home about a fortnight ago because of rent arrears, said he only put his pony, called Rosie, in the field as a last resort and is devastated that she’s been taken away by an equine bailiff company.
He said: “I’ve always lived in Horsley Hill, and for years I’ve walked by that bit of land.
“It’s always been empty, so, since I’ve just lost my home, where Rosie would graze in the garden, I thought I’d just let her stay there for a few weeks.
“I was caring for her every day. If I couldn’t make it down, then a friend would take her food and water. She was well cared for.”
Council officers last week placed a notice at the field saying the animal would be rehomed or even put down if her owner couldn’t be found by yesterday.
However, on Friday the pony was taken to stables by equine bailiffs.
Mr Robertson, currently staying with friends, has until next week to claim his horse back, but it’s likely he will have to settle a hefty bill first.
In 2010, Mr Robertson was featured in the Gazette with Rosie’s father, Turbo, who used to trim the neighbours’ front gardens.
He said: “Everyone on the estate knows I love my animals. They always ask how the horses are doing. I would never mistreat them.
“I just can’t believe someone has come and taken Rosie away like this. They’ve just stolen her.”
He added: “I don’t have a house at the moment and am not in the best of health, so there’s no way I am going to be able to pay a fee. Also, I don’t see why I should have to.
“I just want Rosie back as soon as possible.”
A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that Mr Robertson has contacted the council to claim ownership of the Shetland pony.
“We have passed on his details to the assigned bailiffs, Rossendales, who are now dealing with the case on behalf of the council.
“The council brought in Rossendales after we became concerned for the pony’s welfare.
“Mr Robertson has until the end of next week to prove ownership of the animal.”