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Visitors asked please look but don’t touch New Forest Ponies

Visitors asked please look but don’t touch New Forest Ponies


The public are being asked not to feed or touch the New Forest’s free roaming ponies and donkeys when they visit the area. Doing so was made a fineable offence last year, in the wake of a series of injuries to the public and several animals dying after being fed human food.  

Two Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) were introduced by New Forest District Council last July. The first prohibits feeding and petting ponies or donkeys, and the second aims to protect the forest from wildfires by banning BBQs and fires. Anyone carrying out these activities is liable for a fixed penalty fine of £100, rising to £1,000 following a successful prosecution.

Over the first three months of the new PSPOs being introduced, rangers used the new powers to intervene in 152 incidents involving over 700 people. More than 120 of the incidents involved petting and feeding ponies or donkeys.

Charlotte Belcher, Community Manager for Forestry England, said: ‘When we speak to people feeding or petting ponies, they often think it’s not doing any harm and that as it’s something they have always done it must be ok. Neither is the case. These are wild animals and getting too close poses risks to them and the public. This is why these new rules are in place. To keep everyone safe, please enjoy watching these animals from a distance and let them get on with their important job of grazing and looking after the Forest.’

A recent survey found that awareness of the request not to touch or feed New Forest animals was extremely high at 95%, however over a quarter of people were not aware they could be fined for carrying out these activities. Local residents or those travelling from nearby locations to visit for the day made up 65% of respondents with around 30% people on holiday in the Forest.

Teams from Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest regularly patrol and engage with the public to explain more about the rules. Signs and information are in place across the Forest. Along with other key things to know about visiting the area, the rules are highlighted in the New Forest code, widely publicised across the area and shared by local tourism businesses with many visitors before and during their stay. 

Cllr Dan Poole, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for community, safety and wellbeing, said: ‘Most people enjoying the Forest do so with great care and regard for the New Forest code. But last year we saw a number of pony petting and feeding incidents, including in our car parks in Forest villages. It is so important people follow the rules, to keep themselves, and the animals safe.’

Steve Avery, Executive Director at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘Last year saw a rise in road accidents involving livestock, which is why encouraging ponies and donkeys near car parks and roads is extremely dangerous, particularly near New Forest villages. Please keep your distance and allow the animals to do their important job in creating and maintaining the exceptional habitats of the New Forest, so that other species can flourish.’

The PSPO aiming to reduce the risk of wildfires bans the lighting of fires of any type including BBQs and any outdoor cooking facilities or equipment in the New Forest. It also makes it an offence here to place, throw or drop items likely to cause a fire such as lit cigarettes.

More information on the Public Space Protection Orders can be found online at

[Joint release with Forestry England and New Forest District Council]

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