New Plymouth horse lovers believe it is only a matter of time before a serious accident is caused by people illegally releasing ponies from their paddocks.
At 5am on Tuesday Westown resident Ayla Norris got a call to tell her three horses she grazes in Blagdon had been let out of their paddock.
The gate she had securely locked the evening before had been removed from its hinges and the horses were running free on Banks St in Marfell.
"I felt heartbroken and devastated. I want to urge people to double check the security of their gates so no one has to feel like I did," Norris, who has grazed her horses off Blagdon Rd for the past three years, said.
Police and New Plymouth District Council's animal control team were called and eventually were able to get the horses back into their paddock.
Norris said none of the horses was seriously injured, however, they had sore and swollen legs from galloping on the street, and were still were very distressed.
She said after she posted her experience on Facebook two or three people had replied saying similar things had happened to them.
Team leader animal control Jim Aitken advised stock owners in urban areas to place a chain with a padlock on both sides of external gates to prevent them from being opened by unauthorised people. "Stray horses are a major hazard on the road. Most cars will impact under them and the horse will crash through the windscreen," he said.
Aitken said officers responded to a couple of callouts for loose stock a week.
Sergeant Bruce Irvine said in such situations police secured the scene, put traffic control in place and assisted animal control.
"We get calls often about animals, as it's a traffic hazard," he said.
New Plymouth Pony Club president Jane Hadlow said unauthorised people releasing horses from grazing paddocks was a common problem.
She thought people did it for entertainment, but the repercussions could be devastating.
"It's a real worry.
"They're putting themselves in danger as well as the horse," Hadlow said.
An animal control officer has installed bolted blocks over the gate hinges of the paddock Norris uses to graze her horses, to prevent the gates being lifted off in the future. Laura Maxwell is a Witt journalism student.
- Taranaki Daily News
Does Opunake have a problem with drugs and gangs?Related story: Stand by your town