‘It’s been a harsh winter’: welfare charity responds to Bodmin pony crisis

  • A charity involved in the monitoring of ponies on Bodmin Moor has responded to posts of dead and thin ponies circulating on social media recently.

    H&H reported last week (2 April) that 17 ponies have been taken off the moor since February and more are identified for removal.

    Blog site People4Ponies has been highlighting the issue on its web page along with photos of the ponies taken with a copy of a newspaper, dated 4 April, to show this is a current problem.

    Charity South West Equine Protection (SWEP) has now responded to give an update on the work it is doing on the moor.

    “SWEP have been monitoring all parts of Bodmin Moor and has been pleasantly surprised at the work that has been carried out on most commons to avoid the deaths due to lack of nutrition,” said a spokesman.

    “Any ponies of concern either reported to us or seen by SWEP on their routine visits have been reported straight to APHA and Julie Dowton of the Bodmin Moor Commoners council.

    “Sadly, this part of Bodmin Moor the ponies came from is very high moorland surrounded with bogs and mires and is inaccessible to people on foot, so people don’t see these ponies until it is too late — they are the wrong breeding to be up there which doesn’t help their situation.

    “It is now, in spring, that the ponies come down for food to lower moorland, which are accessible areas on foot, as there is nothing left up on high moorland, which is why there tends to be a cluster of deaths.”

    SWEP also claims some images have been circulating on social media from the 2013 crisis, which it says is not a true representation of what is happening.

    But the People4Ponies blog states all images on its site are clearly labelled and positioned, with three photos referring to the 2011 and 2013 crisis, and the 20 others relating to the ongoing situation.

    The SWEP spokesman added that the Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA) has been monitoring this part of Bodmin Moor since January.

    “The reduction in body condition is rapid in these cases and if they were not reported to APHA and they didn’t see them on their routine visits, then no action could have been taken,” he said.

    “Yes ponies have died this year and yes bodies have been found, many contributing factors have been played a big [part] in this. Boggy ground makes it impossible for collection of the bodies and vehicles are unable to access the land to bury the ponies.

    “It has been a harsh winter for all the ponies.”

    David Collins, APHA’s veterinary head of field delivery for the South West, said that the organisation carries out regular pony welfare monitoring visits during the winter.

    The owners of animals are legally responsible for their welfare, but where issues are found we work with partner organisations to resolve them as speedily and safely as possible.”

    Julie Dowton, of Bodmin Moor’s newly-formed commons council, told H&H on Friday (1 April) that one of its priorities is to implement effective management of all livestock on the moor.

    “We would be the first people to shout for prosecution if we could find the owners of the ponies,” she told H&H.

    “The problem for us, which it has been all along, is that the ponies are not microchipped and passported [so we cannot trace the owners].”

    It is a legal requirement for all horses to have a passport and microchipping of foals has been compulsory since 2009. However, some owners ignore the law.

    This makes it difficult to trace a horse’s owner. Without an owner, it is not possible to prosecute.

    “We have not sat back — we are taking ponies off there and there are still ponies identified to come off,” added Ms Dowton.

    Homes have been found for all the ponies removed from the moor and Ms Dowton said the deceased animals will be removed or buried as soon as the weather permits.

    “One of the first jobs of the commons council will be to look at the marking of ponies and how we are going to identify and register them,” she said.

    “In the future, regardless of a pony’s condition, if it is not supposed to be there or not registered with us, then we would be able to move it straight away.”

    Related articles:

    SWEP has confirmed it will continue to monitor the ponies on the moor and continue to report its findings to the relevant authorities so action can be taken.

    “The owner should be taking responsibility here and if these owners can’t look after them they shouldn’t have them,” said the SWEP spokesman.

    “[It is] very sad so many have died in such an awful way.”

    The RSPCA has not yet responded to H&H’s request for comment.

    Ponies in distress, injured or looking poor can be reported to SWEP on 01822 854823, 07717311251 or through its website, anonymously, at www.swep.org.uk.

    You may like...