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.

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Salisbury Journal: A New Forest PonyA New Forest Pony (Image: Forestry England)

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 more than 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.

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"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.”

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.”

A recent survey found that awareness of the request not to touch or feed New Forest animals was extremely high at 95 per cent, however over a quarter of people were not aware they could be fined for carrying out these activities.

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 at