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Visitors warned: ‘look but don’t touch’ as ponies on Dartmoor develop strangles

VISITORS to Dartmoor have been urged to “look but don’t touch” the ponies, as some are carrying strangles.

The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society and the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust have issued a joint statement asking people to “enjoy the herds from a distance”.

The affected animals are being monitored, and with higher visitor numbers expected to the moors as soon as lockdown restrictions ease, and as spring approaches, the charities are hoping people respect their plea.

Livestock protection officer Karla McKechnie said: “We are aware that a number of ponies on Dartmoor currently have strangles. Infected animals are being monitored by their owners and by myself.

“In order to help contain the spread of the disease we are urging all visitors to the moor not to go near or touch the ponies.

“Strangles is highly infectious and transmitted via contact and we need everyone to work with us in helping to prevent its spread.”

The statement, aimed at visitors and the general public, explains the nature of strangles and its transmission, which can occur through indirect contact, even via cars.

“This is a challenging disease to manage and eradicate because infected horses and ponies become carriers, where even though they appear healthy and show no outward signs, they can be intermittently infective to other ponies,” the statement reads.

The charities are also urging the public not to be tempted to feed the ponies.

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“There have been a number of reported cases countrywide of horses and ponies choking to death when they’ve been fed unsuitable food,” Karla said.

“Feeding of ponies has been directly linked to an increase in pony-related road accidents by encouraging them to the roadside in the expectation of being fed. Our message is to admire the ponies from a distance.”

Anyone worried about a pony looking ill can call Karla on 07873 587561.

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