Sunderland stallion seized by bailiffs for ‘fly-grazing’ in South Hylton

Michael Hackett, of Fordenbridgre Square, Ford Estate, Sunderland with his horse The Duke, which was evicted by Gentoo.
Michael Hackett, of Fordenbridgre Square, Ford Estate, Sunderland with his horse The Duke, which was evicted by Gentoo.
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A Sunderland horse owner says he has been left “devastated” after the stallion was seized by bailiffs and taken from a Sunderland field.

‘The Duke’ was under threat of eviction from a field in South Hylton, where he had been tethered from more than 20 years.

Michael Hackett with horse Duke, on land off Hylton Road.

Michael Hackett with horse Duke, on land off Hylton Road.

Owner Michael Hackett said he was left reeling when he went to the field on Tuesday morning and found his pet had been taken by bailiffs, who are demanding £6,700 for his return.

The 58-year-old said he and his family are now very worried about The Duke’s welfare and have no idea where the bailiffs have taken him.

And Michael said there is no way he can raise that sort of cash.

Michael said: “He has been part of our family for more than 20 years and we are so upset, we are devastated. We don’t know where he has been taken and I know for a fact he will be very worried and fretting for us.”

He will be worried and fretting

Michael Hackett

Despite having grazed on the field for more than 20 years without any problems, Mr Hackett got word in July from land owners, Gentoo, giving notice that the animal had to be removed.

More than 500 people signed a petition to stop The Duke being evicted and at one point Mr Hackett even moved him into the garden of his home in Fordenbridge Square for a short time.

He said: “When it first happened I went to a meeting at a Gentoo office and asked if I could rent the land he was on.

“They said I couldn’t because they would still be responsible if anything happened on the land.

“So, I asked if I could buy the land and they said they would get back to me and I never heard anything.”

He claims that in the days prior to finding the horse missing, he had not had any letters, phone calls or visits from Gentoo.

The Duke is particularly adored by Mr Hackett’s daughter, Shamiem Hackett, 33.

The dad of four and granddad of eight, said: “He is Shamiem’s pride and joy. She is heartbroken about this.”

Michael, who is unemployed, said he is having to give up hope of ever seeing ‘The Duke’ again because of the huge cost involved in getting him back.

In July, Gentoo said they had been made aware of an incident involving a small child being injured by a horse, and had received concerns from members of the public about the animal, but this was refuted by Mr Hackett.

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director (Operations) for Gentoo, said: “At Gentoo, providing safe communities for our residents is a key priority and the reason we have taken action in this case.

“As the landowner, there has been ongoing communication with the family regarding the action that would be taken if the horse continued to fly-graze on our land. We have followed the correct process to remove the horse including timely and appropriate communication with all relevant parties.”