HORSES at the centre of a welfare probe have been moved to a place of safety by a leading animal charity.

The Advertiser previously reported that the Scottish SPCA was investigating concerns about the welfare of horses and ponies being kept in a field near the former Argyll and Bute Council offices at Blairvadach.

Social media comments in response to that story claimed the horses had been moved just after Christmas.

And in an end-of-year email update from Rhu and Shandon Community Council, it was stated that “[the] SSPCA removed these horses to a place of safety” on Friday, December 28.

The animal charity has now confirmed that the horses have been removed from the site, but could not comment further.

Scottish SPCA chief inspector, Hamish MacKintosh, said: “The horses have been removed at the request of the owner and this is an ongoing investigation.”

The latest development comes after the issue was raised with local councillors at a meeting in Helensburgh.

A group called the Friends of Blairvadach Horses submitted a series of questions to the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee on December 20 – including one which asked when the animals would be removed from the site and taken to a place of safety.

The group’s questions received a detailed written response from the council’s special projects and quality improvement manager, who stated: “The council has pursued a civil action against the owner of the horses in the Sheriff Court and has obtained orders to have the owner remove the horses. Unfortunately he has, thus far, failed to comply with that court order.

“The council does not have a common law power, nor can the court at this stage competently grant such a power, to remove the horses that enables the council to assume ownership and dispose of them in an appropriate way.

“In the absence of the owner removing the horses in a responsible manner the council (and other statutory and interested bodies) can only interfere in the custody and ownership of the horses, as they belong to a third party, where there is a lawful basis to do so.

“Neither the council nor the police are, currently, in a position to deny the owner his rights of ownership in the horses or sell them. That position may change depending on the communications we are currently having with the police.

“In the meantime the council’s animal health officer continues to liaise with the SSPCA.

“They have been actively monitoring matters and do not currently consider that the welfare of the animals is of sufficient concern to warrant a ‘statutory’ intervention in that regard.

“The council are concerned for the welfare of the horses and are working to address this matter as effectively as it can within the confines of the law.”