The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society and the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust have issued a joint statement urging visitors to the moors to enjoy pony herds from a distance, after some have been seen to be carrying strangles.
Strangles is a highly contagious and difficult to manage bacterial infection of the respiratory system. It can be spread through direct contact with affected equines, or indirectly on items such as clothing, gloves or even 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.
Karla McKechnie, Livestock Protection Officer, 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.
“At the same time, we are also urging the public not to be tempted to feed the ponies or interact with them. There have been a number of reported cases countrywide of horses and ponies choking to death when they’ve been fed unsuitable food. 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.”
With visitor numbers likely to increase dramatically when lockdown measures are eased, both charities hope that people adhere to their plea.
Anyone worried about a pony looking ill can ring Karla on 07873587561