After several men were spotted riding horses on North Avenue Sunday, Baltimore officials said Monday it's illegal to ride horses down city streets without approval.

Police are investigating whether a group of men spotted riding horses on North Avenue Sunday stole the animals from city arabbers, officials said Tuesday.

T.J. Smith, chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said officers will look into whether any arabbers -- merchants who sell fruits and vegetables from horse-drawn carts -- were the victims of theft. He said as of Tuesday morning he wasn't aware of any reported horse thefts.

"Sunday night we saw the horses galloping down North and Penn," Smith said, referring to the intersection of W. North and Pennsylvania avenues in Druid Heights. "This appears to be more of a health commission violation in and of itself.


"[But] if those horses had been stolen, that is something we'll be investigating."

Smith said the matter is a safety concern for motorists, pedestrians, the horses and the men on the horses, noting that a video shows one of the men falling off the animal.

Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the possibility the horses were stolen from arabbers is "just one line of inquiry into the investigation."

"The question is where they came from," Libit said.

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. John Wachter said Tuesday that city police had reached out to the county to see if there were any reports of stolen horses there.

So far, "we haven't found anything," Wachter said.

The sight of men riding the horses on city streets near traffic created a buzz on social media Sunday. The horse-riding comes amid a police effort to curtail the illegal activity of dirt bike riding on Baltimore streets.

It's illegal to ride horses down city streets without approval.

Baltimore health department officials said the city allows horse riding if the users have a license for arabbing or a permit to exhibit the animals. The city also allows horse riding by law enforcement personnel.

"Horses are prohibited if they are not actively engaged in the above methods with the proper licensing and/or permits," said health department spokesman Michael Schwartzberg.

According to the city code, in order to get a license to ride a horse in Baltimore, a person must be 18 years old, have no convictions for animal cruelty, be deemed capable of "humanely handling" a horse, and carry the license while riding. The horse must be examined yearly by a veterinarian, and may not be ridden in extreme heat or cold or while drunk.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.