Petition calls on Defra to end potentially ‘devastating’ red tape

  • A Dartmoor hill pony owner has launched a petition calling on Defra to review its new equine ID regulations after the struggles faced at this year’s drift sale.

    Up to 250 foals were left potentially facing being shot after the government body introduced new rules days before the annual sale at Chagford (11 October) was due to take place.

    New regulations meant ponies from semi-feral herds — who only require microchips and passports if they leave their native environments — be given passports as soon as they left the sale ring.

    Organisers feared the auction would be cancelled, and the foals left without buyers, owing to the impracticalities of getting vets to draw up that many silhouettes in such a short space of time.

    Last-minute efforts from Charlotte Faulkner and the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony meant a Perspex “photobooth” was created on site, which allowed for vets to draw up accurate silhouettes after the ponies had been sold.

    Emily Dorman-O’Gowan, who bought a foal at the sale, has created a petition to ask Defra to change what she considers to be “nightmare” process.

    “The fact Charlotte managed to do what she did was tantamount to moving heaven and earth, there is no other way of describing it, the whole thing was unbelievable,” said Emily, who was visiting the sale for the first time. “Pet ID is now being left to process 250 passports in a matter of days.”

    Emily also described how meeting Defra’s conditions had involved the additional movement of animals who were unused to handling.

    “They are six months old and wild. My pony had obviously had minimal contact with humans— you’re talking about the adrenaline levels of little babies taken from herds and their mothers and then herded through the system,” she said.

    “The people who handle them at the sales are incredible, the animals all looked fabulous and everything was done as expertly as it could be, but you’re still talking about wild ponies who are terrified.”

    Emily bought a coloured filly for £80 — the top lot from that breeder — and said that Defra’s rules could easily undermine the progress that has been made in recent years in ensuring a future for these herds.

    “The money is barely worth getting them to the sale as it is. If it becomes too difficult to process them through the sale ring you worry they aren’t going to bother bringing them,” she said.

    “I have another Dartmoor hill pony that my four-year-old son has broken in himself — that’s the kind of pony and temperament we’re talking about. We’re risking losing such a great children’s pony that’s part of our heritage and wildlife. If Defra’s red tape puts paid to that it would be devastating.”

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    Defra said it ran an open public consultation prior to the changes, but the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, the auctioneers and the relevant passport-issuing authorities all said they had not been approached for their views.

    Speaking to H&H last month, Charlotte Faulkner said they had known nothing about the legislation prior to its release on Oct 1.

    “We will have to go back to them to get them to do something about this,” she said. “Wild ponies having to go through this process is ridiculous.”

    H&H has approached DEFRA for comment.

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