Sunderland family’s appeal after beloved horse is threatened with eviction from land

Michael Hackett, grand daughter Connie and daughter Rachael, with horse Duke, that Gentoo has asked to be removed from land off Hylton Road.
Michael Hackett, grand daughter Connie and daughter Rachael, with horse Duke, that Gentoo has asked to be removed from land off Hylton Road.

A furious family have set up a petition after their beloved horse was threatened with “eviction” from his home of 20 years.

Known as ‘The Duke’, the horse is well-known in the Ford Estate area of Sunderland, and has occupied land off Hylton Road for two decades.

Michael Hackett with horse Duke, that Gentoo has asked to be removed from land off Hylton Road.

Michael Hackett with horse Duke, that Gentoo has asked to be removed from land off Hylton Road.

However, the owner of the land, housing association Gentoo, has issued the horse’s owner with a notice stating that it must be removed by Monday.

Michael Hackett, of Fordenbridge Square, has owned The Duke for 20 years, and has been told a ‘horse bailiff’ will remove his much-loved animal if he does not do so himself.

It would cost more than £8,000 for the family to reclaim the horse after that.

The Hackett family has set up a petition online urging Gentoo to reconsider its position, and it already has almost 500 names.

The Duke means the world to my family, because we’ve had him since he was a baby

Michael Hackett

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 that was refuted by Mr Hackett.

Mr Hackett, 58, says The Duke is particularly adored by his daughter Shamiem Hackett, 33, as well as the rest of his four children and eight grandchildren.

He said: “Gentoo haven’t given any reason whatsoever as to why they want the horse evicted.

“The Duke means the world to my family, because we’ve had him since he was a baby.

“He’s my daughter Shamiem’s pride and joy.

“I’d happily pay for the use of the land if I was allowed to, but I just really hope Gentoo will reconsider its position.”

Mr Hackett’s daughter-in-law’s sister, Kiegan Burrell, 19, of South Hylton, said: “They have said they want him off the field, but we think it’s classed as common land.

“We now have more than 500 signatures to save him, and people all over the world have signed it. The Duke has been there over 20 years.

“You can go around the neighbours and ask them, everybody loves him. The elderly people love him, he is something to do for them.

“All the kids go past on the bus and they say ‘there’s The Duke’ – the big white horse.

“He takes them in the cart to the prom, everybody absolutely loves him.”

A notice from Gentoo said it had served it with assistance from the RSPCA “to ensure the welfare of the animal”.

A spokesman for Gentoo said: “At Gentoo, providing safe communities for our residents is a key priority.

“In this particular case, Gentoo is the landowner and is therefore responsible for any incidents that may occur on this piece of land.

“In addition, we are aware of a recent local incident involving a small child being injured by a horse and we have also received a number of concerns from members of the public about this particular horse.

“We are therefore taking the necessary measures to look after local residents and the wider community.”

Mr Hackett, though, disputes Gentoo’s claims.

He said: “There is no way whatsoever that this horse would hurt anybody.

“I absolutely dispute what they have said.”

To view or sign the petition, visit www.change.org/p/sunderland-city-council-save-the-duke-from-eviction