A MINIATURE Shetland pony rescued by a horse and pony charity has been given a permanent home for the new year.

But other East Lancashire animal charities say they are very relieved he is one of just a handful of animals to be abandoned over the past few weeks, with the festive period very quiet.

The Horses and Ponies Protection Association (HAPPA), based in Briercliffe, Burnley, took on ‘Little John’ after receiving a call from a woman in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, who was concerned for the pony’s welfare.

HAPPA welfare officer David McCormick attended the following day.

He said: “I was led to a very large field area adjacent to a road and, after walking for around a quarter-of- a-mile, I came to a grove that was completely hidden from the view of anyone walking past.

"Once inside the clearing, I saw a miniature Shetland tied to a tree trunk by a length of washing line.

“There was no sign of any water available to the animal, or any empty containers to suggest any water had been supplied to it.

"In addition, there was no evidence of any food left for him.”

The woman who found the pony said she had seen it tied there five days earlier and nobody had been to tend to it.

It was inspected by a local vet, with checks to see if it had been reported missing, before being taken to HAPPA.

The charity has now given him a permanent home after the statutory waiting time elapsed and no-one came forward to claim him.