Tourists will be fined £1,000 if they pet the New Forest’s famous wild ponies, as it makes them more aggressive towards humans
- Park rangers said the ponies are fed “daily” by tourists
Tourists can be fined £1,000 if they are caught petting wild ponies in the New Forest, out of concern that this will make them aggressive.
Plans to curb ‘extremely harmful’ behavior have been given the green light by New Forest District Council.
It argues that vacationers petting and feeding ponies, horses, mules and donkeys increases the animals’ aggression toward humans.
After petting and giving snacks to ponies, people have been bitten and kicked as the animals harassed and ‘begged’ for more food.
Anyone breaching a public space protection order could be subject to a fixed fine of up to £100.
New Forest District Council fines tourists feeding wild ponies up to £1,000, saying it makes the animals more aggressive towards humans
After petting and giving snacks to ponies, people have been bitten and kicked as the animals harassed and ‘begged’ for more food
The fine could be up to £1,000 if the case goes to Southampton Magistrates’ Court.
The council will also introduce new measures to ban bushfires and barbecues in Hampshire’s meadows and moors – in a bid to stamp out anti-social behaviour.
They will be rolling out from July 1 – just weeks before school holidays and staycations begin.
The district council first recommended the new rules in November, after the A New Forest code had already been introduced as a guideline, but was largely ignored.
It asked visitors to keep their distance from animals, keep dogs on a leash, and not start barbecues or wildfires.
Last year a report was handed over to the council documenting the park’s problems, saying that tourists in the area feed and pet the free-roaming animals ‘on a daily basis’, causing ‘extremely harmful’ health problems for the ponies.
Jonathan Gerrelli, the main person responsible for looking after the New Forest ponies, said: ‘Unfortunately ponies can become aggressive around food.
The council will also criminalize lighting fires and barbecues in the area, as well as feeding the famous ponies, horses and donkeys.
This leads to competition between the ponies, including kicking and biting, and that aggression can and often is aimed at the public.
‘The result is that civilians are knocked over, bitten and even kicked. A direct consequence of people feeding the ponies is therefore a danger to the public.’
Gillie Molland, head warden of the New Forest, said: ‘It is increasingly common for ponies to congregate around parked cars, harass the car’s occupants and ‘beg’ for food.
“Not only is this bad for the ponies and the future of the community in the New Forest, it also spoils people’s enjoyment of the areas and in some cases people can feel quite intimidated.”
The national park added in the report that after following the popular tourist spot of Bolton’s Bench for an hour in Easter 2020, there were 37 petting zoo incidents – where one person was bitten while trying to feed chips to a pony.