British tourists could be fined £1,000 if caught petting a New Forest pony under new rules expected to be in place by July 1. The rule has been introduced to protect the ponies from “serious harm”.
Steve Avery, executive director of strategy and planning at the New Forest National Park Authority, told Express.co.uk: “However well-intentioned, feeding and petting New Forest ponies can cause them serious harm, encouraging them closer to the roadsides and busy car parks and stopping them from seeking their own natural food.”
Feeding the ponies can also cause them to become aggressive with some reports of holidaymakers being bitten after approaching the animals.
Anyone breaching the rules could be handed a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100 which increases to £1,000 if the case goes to Southampton Magistrate’s Court.
The New Forest District Council has also moved to ban wildfires and barbecues in the area’s heathland.
In a statement the Council said: “Although the vast majority of people enjoying the Forest do so with due regard to the New Forest Code, by making these (rules) the New Forest District Council expects a reduction in anti-social behaviour associated with wildfires and barbecues on the Forest, and the feeding and petting of wild animals, all of which are detrimental to the local community.”
There are around 5,000 wild ponies in the New Forest and all the ponies are allowed to roam freely.
Although the ponies can roam as they please, they are actually owned by New Forest commoners under a system which dates back to William the Conqueror.
The ponies help to keep the New Forest’s landscape pristine and are a vital part of the area’s ecosystem.
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Tourists feeding the ponies could encourage them to approach the road or become aggressive with people.
Although the ponies might look friendly, even gentle animals can kick or bite if they are approached.
The ponies don’t have road sense and could be hit by a car or cause an accident if they approach the road.
In a report on the issue, head ranger Gillie Molland, said: “It is increasingly common to see tourists congregating around parked cars, harassing and begging the car’s occupants for food.
“Not only is this bad for the ponies and the future of communing in the New Forest, it spoils people’s enjoyment of the areas and in a few cases, people can feel quite intimidated.”
In one reported incident in the national park, a person was bitten by a pony after they tried to feed it crisps.
According to a survey by Jorvik Tricycles, the New Forest is the UK’s favourite forest with over 100,000 average monthly Google searches.
It is one of southern England’s largest spots of unenclosed pasture land, healthland and forest.
New Forest Code
- Keep your distance from the animals
- Take home litter and dog waste
- No fires or barbecues
- Keep dogs under control
- Park only in car parks
- No wild camping
- Stick to the permitted cycle tracks
- Drive with care as there could be animals on the road
- Help wildlife by keeping to the main tracks
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