Contraceptive Evaluated for Use in British Semiferal Ponies

According to a press release from World Horse Welfare, a U.K.-based equine welfare charity, a contraceptive injection will be evaluated in a herd of semiferal ponies residing in Southwest England.

According to the Dartmoor Pony Society, the feral Dartmoor ponies have been living on the moors in Devon since the Middle Ages. As a result of a recent pony population boom, World Horse Welfare, the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, and Pfizer Animal Health have teamed up to evaluate this possible solution to overbreeding.

In late spring this year, the organization explained, 20 semiferal pony mares will be rounded up, microchipped, marked in a way in which they are identifiable at a distance, and given a contraceptive injection. Veterinarians will administer a second dose four weeks later and evaluate mares after six months to determine if estrous levels have been suppressed. If the test is deemed successful, the test mares will receive a dose to keep them out of estrus until spring 2013.

"We feel that this method of control is advantageous as the mares can come back into foal after the treatment; there is simply a reduction in foal production for the duration of the project," explained Keith C. Meldrum, CB, BVM&S, DVSM, HonFRSH, MRCVS, World Horse Welfare's veterinary consultant. "We are close to starting the initial injections now that we have the vaccine, provided by Pfizer, in our possession and after the Veterinary Medicines Directorate gave us the go ahead for the vaccine to be imported from Australia into the U.K."

Charlotte Faulkner, secretary of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, added, 'The adult pony numbers on the moor need to be maintained at its present number for the benefit of Dartmoor, but the foal crop needs to be reduced as there is no market for the foals at present. Controlling the production of unwanted foals will ensure their welfare. We are optimistic that this project will help us to ensure the future of ponies on Dartmoor, grazing to keep it as we know and love it for generations to come, creating the habitat for its wonderful birds, plants, and animals to be conserved."

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency registered the first equine contraceptive vaccine in February 2012. Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management is in the midst of a multiyear fertility study evaluating an equine contraceptive's effect on mustang mares residing at a holding facility in Nevada.<

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