Uproar over donkey derby

THE organisers of last week's donkey derby in Filey have been accused of riding roughshod over welfare guidleines after allowing an adult to ride a donkey at the annual event.

Filey donkey operator Amanda Pickles said she had been approached by a number of people who wrongly assumed they were her animals after seeing the picture on the front page of last week’s Mercury.

“I’ve had quite a lot of grief about it, and then unfortunately I had the people from the Donkey Sanctuary and the first thing they asked was whether it had anything to do with me,” she said.

The Donkey Sanctuary, which is based in Devon, carries out regular inspections of working donkeys throughout the country and lays down strict guidelines about donkey derbies.

One of these is that riders should be between the ages of nine and 15 and weigh no more than eight stone.

Rachel Phillips, a beach donkey operator in Scarborough, said: “Filey Lions should be ashamed of themselves. No working donkey should carry anyone above seven stone.”

Her sister Amanda said she only allowed her donkeys to be ridden by children under the age of 12 and under seven stone and what happened at the donkey derby should never have been allowed.

John Bettley, a spokesman for Filey Lions, declined to comment, but confirmed the animals came from Carvill’s Donkeys of Bridlington. Mr Carvill also declined to comment when contacted by the Mercury.

Molly Lloyd, a regional welfare officer for the Donkey Sanctuary, said she would be in touch with licensing officers at East Riding Council and insisting checks are made at next year’s event.

She said: “Adults are too big to ride these small donkeys. It puts a strain on their backs and their legs, and it’s basically cruel to overburden them. The Donkey Sanc-tuary totally disapproves of it.”

A spokesman for East Riding Council said as the event took place in Filey, it was not their responsibility. However, he said the council did not have any rules for the weight or age of riders among its licensing conditions for donkey operators.

No-one from Scarboro-ugh Council was available to comment.