Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Loophole In The Minimum Value Legislation

The blog post below and the main live export page are being amended as we have been able to confirm that there is a legal loophole in the Minimum Value Legislation.  It's been quite an interesting day talking to people from AHVLA equine exports, The Northern Ireland department covering imports and exports, as well as the equivalent department in Southern Ireland.

Even though it is illegal to take a Hill pony directly from Dartmoor to Ireland (via a Welsh port for instance) without proving it's minimum value or needing an export licence etc, it is perfectly legal to travel the same pony from Dartmoor (via a UK ferry port such as Stranraer) to Northern Ireland - a journey for which there are no requirements for minimum values, health certificates or export licenses.  As Northern Ireland does not have minimum value legislation, from there the pony can be travelled straight down over the border into Southern Ireland...and beyond to Europe if someone wanted to.  This completely avoids the purpose and protection intended by the minimum value legislation.  Of course, transport regulations and equine passports would still be legally required.

As soon as an equine enters Northern Ireland, the authorities there and in Southern Ireland say that the Tripartite Agreement allows the free movement of equines anywhere within the EU.  The interesting thing is that when we have spoken to the authorities in the UK, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland and pointed out that the Tripartite Agreement doesn't apply to horses going for slaughter and so what documentation is required to transport those equines...the response from all 3 individual countries has been that no horses have been exported for slaughter because none of the health certificates have been applied for!

The slightly good news is that the contact I spoke to in Northern Ireland said that at their ports they haven't seen any more lorries travelling wild ponies from the UK since the horse meat scandal was exposed.  We haven't seen any dealers buying at markets and the ponies are no longer turning up in Southern Ireland for the moment the trade has stopped.  The questions closely were our wild ponies tied into the horse meat scandal story...and could the minimum value legislation be extended to close the loophole to Northern Ireland to make sure that legislation truly does protect ponies from being exploited in the way they have been.

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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Live Export Of Ponies Exposé

In our latest newsletter, we have published an exposé revealing the export of Dartmoor Hill Ponies from Britain to Ireland and Europe.  It also exposes the lack of welfare in transport, a loophole in the minimum value legislation, and the failure of the authorities to police the rules and regulations designed to protect the wild ponies of Britain. The story is also being published as a press release and can be found on our website at

There are all sorts of rules and regulations in place to protect ponies.  The Animal Health Act 1981 (  lists one of the most important regulations intended to protect wild ponies - the Minimum Value Legislation.  It is designed to prevent wild and low value ponies being exported for slaughter.  The law states that:

"41  Restriction on export of ponies.
(1)It is an offence against this Act to ship or attempt to ship any pony in any vessel or aircraft from any port or aerodrome in Great Britain to any port or aerodrome outside the British Islands unless—
(a)the appropriate Minister is satisfied that the pony is intended for breeding, riding or exhibition and—
(i)it is not of less value than £300, or
(ii)in the case of a pony not exceeding 122 centimetres in height other than a pony of the Shetland breed not exceeding 107 centimetres in height, it is not of less value than £220, or
(iii)in the case of such a pony of the Shetland breed, it is not of less value than £145, or
(iv)such other value in any of those cases as may be prescribed by order of the Ministers; and

(b)Immediately before shipment the pony has been individually inspected by a veterinary inspector and has been certified in writing by the inspector to be capable of being conveyed to the port or aerodrome to which it is to be shipped, and disembarked, without unnecessary suffering."

Of course, our wild ponies are not of great financial value - most don't even make a minimum bid at the markets, and those that do sell make an average of £10 each...
Jetsie - Dartmoor Hill Pony in emaciated condition rescued at a market in Ireland by Sathya Sai Sanctuary

...So how is that ponies such as Jetsie were turning up in Ireland and Europe??  Our ponies would not achieve anywhere near the minimum valuation required. Our investigations suggest that in some cases the rules and regulations have not been enforced.  If you wanted to take a wild pony to Ireland (out of a Welsh port, for instance) you would have to apply for an export license with associated proof of minimum value and provide a fitness to travel document signed by a vet, and you'd need a equine passport.

 If you wanted to legally take a Hill Pony to Europe out of a Southern UK Port you'd need an export license, minimum value certificate, a health certificate signed by a vet, a journey log, and of course an equine passport.

BUT...There is also a loophole in the Minimum Value Legislation which has been exploited as a way to export wild ponies out of the UK.  By travelling wild ponies straight out of a northern port to Northern Ireland, you can legally export the low value ponies (which would have been denied export licenses from a Welsh port) to Southern Ireland with no minimum value paperwork, export licenses or health paperwork at all.  Even though Northern Ireland is part of the UK it does not have Minimum Value Legislation. Of course, transport regulations and equine identification rules do still apply.  From here the ponies could even be transported onto France - as Northern and Southern Ireland allow free movement under the Tripartite Agreement.

The interesting thing is that when we have spoken to the authorities in the UK, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland and pointed out that the Tripartite Agreement doesn't apply to horses going for slaughter, so what documentation is required to transport those equines...the response from all 3 individual countries has been that no horses have been exported for slaughter because none of the health certificates have been applied for!  The Tripartite agreement was originally set up to allow the free movement of racehorses and competition horses.

The Equine Identification Regulations apply to the transport of ponies and The Welfare Of Animals In Transport Order puts all sorts of rules in place to protect horses and ponies being travelled as part of economic activity (not as pets with their owner).  There's also Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 - on the protection of animals during transport and related operations.  This Defra guide is quite useful at explaining the rules:   Examples of the rules include:
· All horses must be fit for the intended journey (i.e. not showing signs of disease and able to travel without being caused unnecessary pain or distress),
· Unbroken horses and ponies most not be transported in groups of more than four animals,
· Unbroken horses and ponies must not be transported on long journeys (more than 8 hours),
· All transporters carrying horses as part of an economic activity must be authorised,
· Drivers and attendants must hold certificates of competence
· Vehicles must be approved if journey length is 8 hours or more,
· Horses and ponies must be accompanied by a passport, and microchip if born or identified for the first time on or after 1 July 2009.
· Unregistered horses have a 24 hour journey limit (from time of loading onto a means of transport) after which a 24 hour rest must be taken before the journey may continue.
· Unregistered horses must be offered water and "if necessary" fed at least every 8 hours,

Let's hope that our exposé will help to ensure an end to the live exports of wild ponies from Britain...Take a look at our webpage to read the full story:

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Sneak Preview

Here's a sneak preview for our supporters of your p4p newsletter that should be arriving on your doorstep soon!  It's a bumper installment of 20 pages and we are pleased with how it has turned out.  Thank you very much to Ted and Jenny for printing all the copies.  The volunteers are pleased with them too so we hope you enjoy reading it as much as they have.

Frodo's fans will be pleased to know that he's back to his normal self again!  On Saturday, Catherine stayed a bit longer to see if we could extract Frodo from all the mud that he has managed to accumulate over the last 2.5 months - this is the first time it's been dry enough to brush him...or do anything about it!  I'm rather pleased that he came in from the field today still looking quite clean but I'm sure it won't last long!

Thank you very much to Carole Campbell, editor of the Witheridge Voice, for the special people4ponies feature in the latest spring edition of the magazine.

Thank you also to Kay who came to visit whilst staying with Margaret at the weekend, and who very kindly donated £100 to the ponies.

Margaret's been helping me today and is very pleased to have finally had the chance to spend quality some time with Topsy...who is coming on so well!

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Friday, 21 February 2014

Frodo's Poorly Hoof

Frodo with his Easyboots on
Yesterday evening Frodo came into the yard not walking properly on one of his front feet.  When he stopped at a haynet he held the hoof up because it was uncomfortable.  On examination he had a stone wedged at the top of an area of separation (caused by the terribly wet weather) and it must have felt like having something stuck under your fingernail.  A hoofpick wan't the right shape to remove it, so thankfully Ted came to the rescue with a braddle and managed to extract the troublesome stone.  That gave quite a lot of relief straight away.  We soaked his foot in Epsom salts, put some german chamomile and yarrow essential oils in the separated area and plugged it with green clay.  Thankfully we also have Frodo's Easyboots so we could put these on to keep his hoof clean, relatively dry and stone free in the yard.  He was walking much better straight away.

Frodo's been in the yard today but he really didn't seem to mind missing out on going up to the field.  He seemed to rather enjoy having his own haynet.  We've cleaned the hoof again and the clay does a great job of plugging the hole.  The hoof feels cool so hopefully the stone just caused a bit of bruising and there's no abcess...He's feeling a lot better.   As he hadn't had a chance to roll in the mud today I could start removing it from his tummy - you wouldn't believe how much mud was under there!

Meanwhile...the newsletters are being printed and Paul and Cilla were amongst the first to get theirs today...more are being printed this weekend and the newsletters should be posted out next week!

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Have You Seen The News??

I was woken up by a phone call from Margaret this morning...saying "Have you seen the news??"...

..."It's been announced that there will no longer be a wild pony sale at Tavistock market in October".

The auctioneers have finally decided that it is financially unviable to run the market.  See our last report about Tavistock market at .  We really hope this will be a wake up call to the remaining breeders - they need to remove stallions from the moor and stop breeding.  We are in the middle of an equine crisis in this country and it is irresponsible to breed - particularly when they are producing many hundreds of unwanted foals...

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Monday, 17 February 2014

A Break In The Weather

Dan and Faye - isn't he progressing well!  He wanted to come into the feedstore
 on Saturday night to help Faye with the feeds!!
Sorry for the delay in posting this week - as you'll have seen on the news (if you haven't experienced it yourself!) we've been constantly battered by hugely powerful storms with torrential rain, hail, sleet and snow on occasion, and 70mph it's mostly been a case of doing all the essentials and keeping the ponies happy and safe.  The other thing we've been working on is our latest edition of the p4p newsletter - it's a big edition with an exposé story that we will hopefully also publish on our website.

It's half term this week so Peter's been helping us today.  He's been able to do something with each of the ponies - even Topsy, which is great!

Thank you to everyone who came for our pony helpers   get-together on Saturday - we had a lovely time and lots of delicious things to eat too!

Ponies on the look-out...they could hear some ridden  horses passing by

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

You Know You're Probably Mad When...

...You spend all day out in the fields in gale force winds, driving rain and mud and you still come indoors with a smile on your face!!!  Just in need of a change of jacket (rain water was going up the sleeves through seepage!), hat and gloves and then back out to do the evening feeds.

If we could just get a few days with no rain, it would make such a difference with drying things up.  Our thoughts really go to the people on the Somerset levels and we're so pleased that they managed to get all their animals to safety.

As you can imagine with fairly constant storms it's just a case of keeping the ponies happy.  Topsy mostly decides to stay in out of the weather and eats hay all day, only venturing out when it's sunny or at least not torrential rain.  The others still go out during the day but we do feel a bit sorry for them when it's particularly dreadful weather...and then we give them a net of hay each in the yard too.  They do have a big concrete yard and plenty of shelter so they can always choose to be in or not.  We still have to keep an eye on their diets and not use the weather as an excuse to feed them too much.  It's not that cold and it's better for them to go into the spring without excess weight.  The ponies have plenty of hay to eat at night but they always have room for the idea of more food!

No sure signs of spring yet...Frodo and Topsy have been losing a bit of coat but the others aren't.  The Mr and Mrs jackdaws and bullfinches are pairing up, the snowdrops are out, and Archie the cockerel's trying to impress the hens so there's signs that it might be coming soon...

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Horrendous Weather And More To Come...

The constant battering of strong storms that we've been having since December has been continuing apace.  Last night was the worst storm yet and we've never seen such bad conditions.  The ponies would not go into the yard with the incredible strength of the winds and the battering rain, so they had hay-nets in the barn and stable.  This morning all 5 ponies were in the stable together!  We've had weather warnings every day for the last 8 days and now there are amber warnings for the next 3 days ahead.  We just can't imagine how the poor people on the Somerset Levels must be feeling and coping with it all.

The wind has changed direction tonight so the field shelter is the most sheltered spot now.  The ponies are so lucky to have somewhere sheltered and dry to get into no matter what direction the weather is coming from.

Stay safe everybody!

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Saturday, 1 February 2014

February's Arrived

Today it's the first of February's time to introduce our star ponies on the people4ponies calendar for this month who are...Tufty and Topsy.  As you can tell from the photo, these two girls were really bonded to each other and I love the photos of them side by side and grooming each other.  As our regular p4p supporters will know, Tufty and Topsy came to us in September 2012 - two older girls (Tufty was probably in her mid 30s) who were in need of our help.  

Tufty and Topsy had been seized as emaciated wild ponies on Bodmin Moor by the RSPCA approximately 14 years ago.  In their past they had been ear notched, hot branded and badly handled and no-one had been able to get near them after the rescue.  They came to us after the death of the lady who had fostered them…and really because the daughter of their fosterer fought tooth and nail to save them from being shot by the RSPCA.  

Once with us, Tufty became handleable extremely quickly and very shortly after her arrival met our MP Neil Parish! Topsy was much more traumatised but we are continuing our work with her and each day she makes progress.  Sadly we lost lovely Tufty in May last year to a lipoma that didn't respond to treatment.  She was such a character on the yard and obviously was a very special friend to Topsy as the 2 ponies had been through a lot in their lifetime together.  We do still talk about Tufty quite often and we are so pleased that we were able to help her to overcome her fear and trauma and finally find trust in humans.  Before she went, Tufty had helped Topsy to integrate into the herd.  Topsy is part of our p4p herd and often likes a groom with Dan, Rocky, Bobby or Frodo.
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