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Equine disease closes Rowde animal centre
An animal centre in Rowde has been forced to close after a number of its ponies contracted the equine disease Strangles.
It started in two ex-show ponies that the Pet ‘N’ Pat Animal Centre took in last month and now nine ponies at the centre have it.
The disease is highly contagious in horses but does not affect other animals or humans, although humans and animals can pass on the infection through direct contact.
The yard and fields at the centre at Malthouse Farm, Cock Road, are in quarantine and the volunteers at the centre are administering painkillers and looking after the affected ponies under the guidance of Hale Vets in Chippenham.
The outbreak comes just six months after the centre opened.
A charity, the centre’s animals are used for education and therapy for members of the public and especially for people with health or behavioural issues.
The ponies are kept isolated from the centre’s other animals – donkeys, goats, llamas, chickens and sheep.
Barbara Mills, who runs the centre, said: “I have done rescue work for more than 25 years and I have never encountered Strangles.
“It has a stigma to it but the vets tell us it is one of the most common diseases in horses, even race horses can get it. We were just unlucky to get it.
“It takes three weeks for Strangles to show and literally on the 21st day that we had taken these ponies in, two of them went from being perfectly okay to being unwell.
“We called the vet out and tests showed they had Strangles.”
To compound the misery for the centre’s volunteers, on the day of the diagnosis someone let horses out of the big field at the centre by cutting the fence – despite there being quarantine signs up.
Thankfully these horses were not affected with Strangles and they were found by police soon afterwards.
Another yard nearby also had horses let out on the same night.
Ms Mills said the centre would be shut down until at least February because of the length of time it takes to ensure Strangles is eradicated.
The centre is appealing for people to help with donations of towels, animal feed, bedding and medical supplies.
Ms Mills said: “We have been told the vet’s bill will be in the high four figures.
“Hale vets are not charging us for visits and because I know what I’m doing they are letting me do most of the work in looking after the ponies.
“The cost of the painkillers is £60 a bottle and we are using a bottle a day.”
If you can help, visit www.pet-n-pat- animal-centre.org.uk or their Facebook page or call Ms Mills on 07511 621454.
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