Weight limit for tourists riding donkeys welcomed *H&H Plus*

  • A Spanish village has joined holiday destinations banning anyone over a certain weight from riding donkey ‘taxis’

    Donkeys serving tourists in Spain are set to benefit from tighter rules surrounding rider weight, while tourists have been reminded of their responsibilities by welfare charities.

    Equine “taxis” are a popular form of transport in Andalusian village Mijas Pueblo, but in the past the needs of the animals have been overlooked, with heavy loads putting the donkeys under “immense strain”.

    But this new year, regulations first developed in 2012 to improve the donkeys’ working conditions will become law.

    The rules include a recommended rider weight limit of 80 kilos (12st 8lbs), adequate rest periods and improved veterinary care for the donkeys.

    From 1 January, two inspectors are to be tasked with checking compliance, and sanctions could follow for anyone breaking the regulations, including losing their licence to provide any service with donkeys.

    The Donkey Sanctuary has been working with the local council and donkey owners to implement the changes.

    “Although the charity does not actively promote the use of donkeys and mules in any form of tourism, we do welcome the new regulations imposed by the Mijas authorities to help improve the welfare of working donkeys,” a spokesman for the charity told H&H. “We also welcome a commitment by the authorities to conduct inspections and enforce the regulations in the new year.”

    The development follows the introduction of a recommended maximum rider weight of 100 kilos (15st 10lbs) on the Greek island of Santorini in August 2018.

    Klara Saville, head of global animal health, welfare and community development at working equines’ charity Brooke, welcomed the new sanctions.

    “Brooke was pleased to see the introduction of weight limits on those riding donkeys in Santorini last year and it’s very encouraging to see Mijas Pueblo take a similar approach,” she told H&H. “For too long, donkeys have been put under immense strain in hot weather with little care for their welfare.”

    Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of working animals’ charity SPANA, said the overloading of animals is a “major issue around the world”.

    “It is important local authorities take responsibility to help address this problem — combined with education and training for animal owners,” he told H&H, adding the tourists also have a role to play.

    The charity has produced a “Holiday Hooves” guide to help travellers make responsible choices and the best course of action if they see animals being mistreated abroad.

    Ms Saville also stressed the importance of “responsible tourism”, referring to Brooke’s “Happy Horses Holiday Code”, which provides guidance to help tourists and tour operators considering equine-related activities during their travels.

    “Brooke urges all visitors to practice responsible tourism and to think twice when considering the services of a horse, donkey or mule while on holiday,” she added. “Everyone has the power to prevent a working animal from suffering.”

    Do you think the steps go far enough to protect the donkeys’ welfare? Let us know your views by emailing hhletters@ti-media.com with your name, nearest town and county for the chance to be featured in the letters page of a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine…

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