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Weighty issue on beach donkey rides

PUBLISHED: 10:14 07 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 July 2010

A DONKEY ride has always been as much a part of the seaside as candyfloss and fish and chips.

But greedy children who eat too much of the latter will now find a gentle trot along the beach is strictly off limits.

A DONKEY ride has always been as much a part of the seaside as candyfloss and fish and chips.

But greedy children who eat too much of the latter will now find a gentle trot along the beach is strictly off limits.

New welfare rules have been introduced that ban children weighing more than 8 stone from hulking their ample frames onto the back of the sturdy little animals.

And the new charter of donkey rights doesn't end there.

The animals must have at least one day off a week and have an hour's rest at lunchtime or early evening.

The beach donkey rules have been issued in a code of practice drawn up by the animal's welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary and the British Equine Veterinary Association.

On Yarmouth beach, where up to a dozen donkeys give rides through the summer season, operators say they are already following the rules.

Andy Parker, 46, who has run donkey rides in Yarmouth for the past two years with Hayley Bulgin, said they asked chunky youngsters to hop on the scales if they were in doubt. He said they had to turn away “quite a few” people over the summer who weigh in above the 8 stone (51kg) threshold.

He said: “It is how you put it across. You cannot say to people that they are too big, because then they say 'Are you saying I am fat?' So we say 'There is a limit of eight stone, how much do you weigh?' And if they say they don't know, we ask them to pop on the scales. We have got a set of bathroom scales here and they come in quite handy.

“We do turn quite a few away in the summer when you get lots of people coming up from London. The other day we had a girl of 14 or 15 who said she was eight stone, but when she got on the scales she was 12 stone.”

Dawn Vincent, from the Donkey Sanctuary said: “Eight stone is the weight limit a donkey should be carrying. Any higher and it could be harmful for them. It is the prerogative of the beach donkey operator how they deal with that. Some do have signs saying there is a limit of eight stone, and a discreet set of scales. We would leave it up to them how they enforce it.”

Mr Parker said they were already following the rules. Although they run donkey rides seven days a week, they run their dozen donkeys on a rota so they get at least one day off a week.

Yarmouth Borough Council was unable to say whether it would be enforcing the code of practice.

Not everyone thinks the new rules are necessary, however. Terry and Rosemary McGinn, who operate an old-established pony riding business during the summer on Hunstanton beach, said the new weight restrictions were political correctness gone mad.

“We have to put the welfare of the animals first and it is common sense that if a person looks overweight we would discreetly suggest they did not ride the ponies. Our limit for people to ride is 14 stone and we have ponies of varying sizes,” said Mrs McGinn.

The new code of practice, which is designed to standardise the level of care and welfare given to the donkeys across Britain, was presented to the mayor of Blackpool on Friday. The resort has the highest number of working donkeys with 200 plying their trade on the sands each summer.

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