We are People4ponies, a charity based in Devon dedicated to helping wild and traumatised ponies. As well as being home to ponies that are too traumatised by their experiences of people to find “normal homes”, we are very pro-active and successful with our campaigning work to improve the welfare of wild ponies.
Last year, we were lucky enough to be awarded a grant from Lush. Our grant money has already helped us to attend all the 2012 wild pony markets in our region to ensure that welfare standards were being upheld. We are currently updating our website (www.people4ponies.co.uk) so that people can learn more about the work we do. Our new projector has also enabled us to give talks to community groups about our work, and the issues surrounding the welfare of wild ponies in our region, and it has helped us deliver training to the Animal Rescue division of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
One of the most important aspects of people4ponies is our campaigning work. Most people aren’t aware that wild ponies in the South West of England (on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin) have been routinely subjected to mutilating identification procedures. This has meant that their owners (all “wild” ponies in the UK are owned) used the traditional methods of cutting pieces out of the ears of their ponies (ear notching and ear cutting – see photo the at the top of the blog post) or burning them with hot irons (a process known as hot branding) as means of identification marking. These are painful procedures carried out without any anaesthetic or painkiller and are usually accompanied with forced restraint – a very scary and traumatic experience for a wild pony. For many, this has been their first ever experience of humans.
In 2010 we were able to stop the practices of ear notching, ear cutting and ear tagging equines – owners can be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act if they carry out these procedures. Hot branding was banned in Scotland in 2010 and in Northern Ireland in 2012.
Now we are working for a ban on hot branding in the UK.
Our local MP fully supports our campaign, and the BBC recently covered the story. A ban on hot branding is also supported by the British Veterinary Association, the British Equine Veterinary Association, the RSPCA, the British Horse Society, and The Blue Cross. We all believe that microchipping is the most effective means of identification. Not only is hot branding painful, it is a highly ineffective means of identification – many of the brands are unreadable, particularly in the winter when the ponies have their thick woolly coats.
A good example of the failure of hot branding to ensure the welfare of wild ponies is the story of these two ponies. Tufty and Topsy have recently come to us from a national welfare organisation. They were seized as welfare cases from Bodmin Moor 13 years ago. They both have ear notches and brands but their owner couldn’t be prosecuted. Even though the ponies displayed his identification marks, these marks are not legally considered as proof of his ownership. Knowing this, their owner denied ownership and escaped prosecution.
Furthermore, the trauma of going through the identification procedures had made Topsy and Tufty extremely frightened of people. They have now found a permanent home with us. They are safe in our care, and for the first time in their lives have been receiving the special handling they need to allow them to overcome the trauma they experienced as foals and they are learning to trust people.
Please support our campaign to ban hot branding of horses and ponies in the UK!
You can follow our work with our resident ponies and our campaigning work on our website and blog.