Fewer welfare issues at this year’s Appleby Horse Fair

The traditional bathing of the horses before auction at the Appleby Horse Fair.
The traditional bathing of the horses before auction at the Appleby Horse Fair.

Fewer incidents and fewer warnings were issued over animal welfare at this year’s Appleby Horse Fair than ever before, the British RSPCA.

The charity says this year’s fair has been the most successful ever from an animal welfare point of view.

The historic fair can attract up to 40,000 visitors, with gypsies and travellers converging from all across Europe to celebrate the ancient traditional holiday.

“We’ve seen a different fair this year, it has to be said,” RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said.

“The atmosphere has been positive throughout, with a lot of people coming to speak to us for advice and it was great to have that interaction.

“There did seem to be fewer horses at the fair but even with that in mind the figures are still really, really pleasing.

“We dealt with 142 incidents relating to animal welfare and issued just 10 warnings, compared to 192 incidents last year and 38 warnings.”

In 2011, the number of incidents was 346 and the number of warnings 17. In 2010, the figures were 311 and 23 and in 2009 they were 180 and 25.

The fair wasn’t without serious incident, the RSPCA said.

A German shepherd type dog was removed from a hot car by police on Saturday and placed in the charity’s care. The owner has been interviewed with a view to the RSPCA bringing a private prosecution. A horse with a broken leg was discovered last Saturday morning and had to be euthanised.

Seven horses and a goat are now in the care of charities. One horse was found with a hole in his face and another was exhausted from being overworked. A bay mare had an injured leg and a grey mare had suffered a tethering injury.

Vets, who had a vet station operating on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, carried out 61 treatments, mostly as a result of minor injuries sustained at the fair.

“It is unfortunate that there are some who don’t look after their animals as well as they should,” Melloy said, “but most of the horses that were at the fair were good looking horses, presumably because of the economic climate and the nature of the market. Where there was cause for them to be seen by a vet, they were.

“What does concern me is the number of puppies at the event, seemingly for sale, and that’s something that we will be looking to work with the Multi Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group to counteract ahead of next year’s event.”

The RSPCA is the leading animal welfare organisation at the fair, with 32 officers and a vet present during peak times. The team included 15 specialist equine officers.

The charity worked with four other animal welfare groups at the fair – Redwings, World Horse Welfare, the Donkey Sanctuary and Blue Cross.

“We work hand-in-hand with our colleagues from the other animal welfare organisations and couldn’t do this without them,” Melloy said.

“A huge thanks must go to the other partners too though, in particular Cumbria Constabulary, with whom we have a very close working relationship at the fair.”



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