A collaboration of seven animal welfare charities including The Donkey Sanctuary will deploy members of staff to the annual travelling community event tomorrow (6 June). With exhaustion a ‘big focus’, the team will work to keep welfare standards in check at Appleby.

The collaboration is led by the RSPCA, for whom Appleby is the biggest deployment of their staff in the year. Held in the picturesque Cumbrian market town, the fair is renowned for its trade in equines and attracts around 10,000 members of the travelling community and 30,000 other visitors.

34 RSPCA officers will be attending the fair along with: five donkey welfare advisers and one vet from The Donkey Sanctuary eight staff from Blue Cross nine from Redwings Horse Sanctuary; and eight more from World Horse Welfare.

RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “Exhaustion of horses will be a big focus for the team at this year’s Appleby.

“A man went to prison after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a horse at last years’ fair as a result of overworking his horse.

“The majority of horse owners at the fair are good horsemen and women but there are some myths that need debunking, specifically around the provision of water."

There will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it, and an information and education tent where travelers can share knowledge and discuss issues relating to equid care. Now in its ninth year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites.

Appleby update: 29/06/19

With so many equines and people in attendance at Appleby there will inevitably be some welfare incidents - in spite of this, we were pleased to see that great progress had been made at the fair.

Due to the collaborative and proactive approach taken by equine charities in the run up to the fair, there were fewer cases in which direct intervention was necessary than seen in previous years. Many owners chose to present their equines for veterinary care before significant issues arose - an indicator of the positive relationships that have built over time with fair-goers.

During the course of this year’s fair 131 people were given advice: this was down from 198 last year and is the lowest figure since 2010. The number of warnings was also down to 5 from last year’s 14.

Appleby team with police
Appleby Horse Fair 2019
Full size

Dotty’s story

Team efforts like this have a very real impact on the ground – not only is the welfare of donkeys, mules and horses kept in the spotlight at the fair, but animals who do slip through the cracks of welfare standards can be accounted for.

Last year, our team discovered a little mule called Dotty running loose once the fair had packed up. With no-one to lay claim to her, Dotty was signed over to The Donkey Sanctuary’s care after two weeks of searching for her owners.

Dotty with RSPCA officer, Appleby
Dotty with RSPCA officer at police station.
Full size

Hannah Bryer, The Donkey Sanctuary’s Head of Welfare, said:

“Dotty is an incredibly sweet-natured mule so it is heartbreaking to think what would have happened had the welfare team at Appleby not spotted her plight.

“I am incredibly grateful to the RSPCA and police who helped provide a safe place for Dotty until we could find her a more permanent place to stay, and of course to our supporters whose kindness means that our teams can be there on the frontline to help donkeys and mules wherever they may be in the UK.”

A year on, and Dotty is a firm favourite at our Derbyshire centre. With a kind eye and a bright look about her, Dotty can be sure of a peaceful, content life in the care of our grooms.

Dotty with Derbyshire farm supervisor
Dotty the Appleby mule
Dotty the mule from Appleby

Your support helps boost welfare standards around the world.