Devon donkey sanctuary remains closed after equine flu outbreak as horse racing resumes

A popular donkey sanctuary in Devon remains closed from the public until further notice. Credit: ITV West Country

A popular donkey sanctuary in Devon says it will remain closed as a precaution following the nationwide outbreak of equine flu.

The sanctuary in Sidmouth will remain closed from the public until further notice, despite the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announcement that racing will resume on Wednesday.

The BHA gave the go-ahead for a resumption following a period of extensive testing, and after seeking the advice of a series of veterinary experts.

The first case of equine flu in the West Country was recorded on Saturday 9 February in Somerset. It followed the nationwide alert that also closed Exeter racecourse.

Millfield School quarantined all horses at its stables near Street after one was found to have the highly contagious disease.

In a statement the school said its equines were already vaccinated and that owners had been informed. The prestigious school has stabling for more than 50 horses at its equestrian centre.

The six-day racing shutdown began on Wednesday 6 February when three vaccinated racehorses in Cheshire were diagnosed.

Equine flu produces similar symptoms to the disease in humans. While not life-threatening in horses, it is highly contagious.

It is not yet clear what impact the spread of the disease will have on next month's Cheltenham Festival. Further updates are expected.