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Vicious virus hits Dartmoor ponies

Abscesses on a Dartmoor pony (courtesy: Malcolm Snellgrove/DLPS)

'Firewall' at Bellever aims to stop spread

A vicious new strain of a virus is hitting Dartmoor's famous ponies, leading a local charity to appeal to people to keep away from them.

Strangles is a highly contagious infection that causes ponies to have flu-like symptoms such as a snotty nose or coughing or more serious and distressing visible signs such as abscesses.

Now the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is putting a firewall around the 450 hectare site it leases from Forestry England at Bellever to try and protect its herd of 27 ponies. It hopes this will prevent the infection from spreading to other herds on the moors.

Bellever is very popular with visitors but with ponies at Haytor and Widecombe already infected it is urging the public to stay away from its ponies and horse riders to stay out of Bellever.

The charity’s CEO Dru Butterfield said: “The neighbouring newtake to the land we lease has contracted strangles, this strain is particularly nasty. We are devastated that our herd, which we go to such extreme measures to care for are now almost certain to contract this terrible infection. 

“We urge the public to avoid any contact with our ponies and to please enjoy them from a distance. If you are a horse owner we would ask you to avoid Bellever until we provide an all clear notice.”

The DPHT is working closely with leading veterinary experts and the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society in the hope it can prevent more ponies suffering.

If you see please keep away but report the incident to Karla McKechnie Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer on 07873 587561. 

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