POLICE suspect that dead and dying ponies are being dumped in the New Forest by owners trying to save money.

An animal abandoned near Lyndhurst had to be shot because it was in a weak condition.

It was found just two days after a dead pony had been discovered at nearby Ipley. Police believe both animals were taken to the New Forest and dumped by people determined to avoid veterinary bills or the cost of disposal.

The latest incident involved a skewbald cob cross filly thought to be about a year old.

An RSPCA spokesman said horses were being abandoned throughout the country, partly because of the soaring cost of hay. She added: "That sort of behaviour is inexcusable. If people are struggling and need help they should call the RSPCA."

Rules preventing the burying of dead horses on the owner’s land mean the carcass must be collected by a knackerman or taken to an incinerator.

The spokesman added: "Abandoning an animal can result in a six-month prison sentence and/or a fine of £20,000 under the Animal Welfare Act."

PC Alison Tilbury, of Hampshire Police, confirmed that the pony found near Lyndhurst was in an extremely poor condition. She added: "Police would like to hear from anyone who knows where it came from or any other information. We want to remind people that dead animals should be disposed of in the appropriate way.

"Owners should contact the animal collection services, via the local council, to arrange appropriate disposal methods."

Anyone with information can ring the Country Watch team at Totton police station on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.