A TEENAGE traveller kicked and punched his horse in the face close to an illegal gipsy site set up in Sunderland, it has been claimed.
In front of shocked drivers, the youth dismounted before assaulting the animal in the middle of a road in Seaburn, say witnesses.
The incident happened just metres from a temporary travellers’ compound, set up on grassland at the rear of the Pullman Lodge, close to the seafront.
The attack has been reported to the police and RSPCA, while city councillors in the area say they have received a number of complaints since the travellers arrived last week.
Now Sunderland City Council is working to obtain a court order to move the travellers on.
Jacqueline Kearney had been driving to Morrisons on Saturday afternoon to do her weekly shop when she turned into Lowry Road, adjacent to the camp.
The Seaburn Dene 50-year-old said: “There was an adolescent riding a white and brown horse from one side of the road to the other.
“Before he even reached the pavement, he jumped off the horse, kicked it in the stomach and punched it squarely in the face.
“I stopped the car because I was so shocked and said something to him.
“But he just looked at me as if I was crazy to say something, as though this was a completely normal thing to happen.
“I continued onto Morrisons but I couldn’t focus on the shopping because I was thinking about what happened.
“When I got home I decided to call the RSPCA and the police to report what had happened.”
Mrs Kearney said she had always been a supporter of the travelling community, but the incident at the weekend has “changed my perspective totally”. Councillors George Howe and John Wiper, from the Fulwell ward, visited the site yesterday after a string of complaints from residents about the travellers.
Coun Howe said: “We’re not trying to be oppressive but when you hear about horses being attacked, it is time to do something.”
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA confirmed they had received a report of the attack.
She added: “The RSPCA is appealing for witnesses to an incident in which a horse was kicked and punched on Lowry Road in Sunderland on Saturday. Anyone with any information should ring the RSPCA inspector information line on 0300 123 8018.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, from Sunderland Council, said: “We are aware of the unlawful site on council owned land at Seaburn and are looking to take action against this in line with our policy on unauthorised encampments.” Police say they have not received any “criminal” complaints in relation to the travellers.