Donkeys and mules work in tourism around the world, they are commonly used to transport passengers or luggage, or to pull carts and wagons. They also accompany tourists on bush walks, carrying heavy equipment.

Donkeys are calmer and more intelligent than horses and therefore less likely to bolt, while their size makes them easy to mount. Their walking pace matches that of a human, which ensures a more comfortable ride and they can navigate tricky terrain.

However, donkeys and mules in some tourist hotspots are forced to carry overweight passengers and are denied access to shade, water and rest for hours at a time.

Poor quality saddles and bridles are often used, and safety guidelines are regularly ignored, placing tourists at risk of injury. Donkeys can be made to travel long distances in harsh climates and tough environments.

Take STEPS

As a result, The Donkey Sanctuary urges UK tourists to avoid participating in acts of animal cruelty as part of its Take STEPS campaign.

Before riding a tourist taxi animal, tourists are urged to ask themselves:

Safety: Will you be escorted by a conductor at all times during the ride?

Thirst: Does this animal have access to fresh, clean water?

Equipment: Is the saddle and bridle of good quality or is it causing sores or discomfort?

Pounds: Are you an acceptable weight for this animal to carry?

Shelter: Does this animal have access to shelter during rest breaks?

If tourists are not 100% happy with the answers to the above questions then they should not ride a donkey or mule. We are all responsible for the welfare of these animals and until conditions improve, The Donkey Sanctuary is urging all UK tourists to avoid taking part in acts of animal cruelty.

Beach donkeys

In the UK, donkeys are a common sight at seaside resorts, giving tourists rides along the beach.

The earliest record of donkeys working on beaches in the UK dates back to 1780. They were used because of their quiet disposition and gentle nature, usually ridden side saddle.

They also pulled small little carriages that resembled a bath chair, led by small boys dressed up as coach men. This allowed the gentlefolk to take in the sea air without having to do anything as undignified as walk!

Places like Blackpool, Scarborough, Skegness and Morecambe were popular tourist haunts with donkey rides on the beach being one of the main attractions. This soon extended to other beach resorts such as Weymouth and Weston Super Mare.

Some of the donkey ride ‘stands’ have been in the same family for up to four generations. Many seaside towns have made regulations, setting out the donkey's daily working hours and its right to have one day off work each week. They also stipulate the maximum age and weight of the riders.

All of the UK’s beach donkeys require, by law, an annual vet check in order to certify them as fit to work. The vet wants to ensure that the donkey is fit for the job and should remain fit for at least the next six months.

For more information about the welfare of beach donkeys and licensing information for owners visit our Working Donkeys page.

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