Seaside donkey operators and their assistants could soon be required to undertake criminal record checks as a condition of having their annual licences renewed.
According to East Lindsey District Council’s licensing officer Adrian Twiddy such a measure would bring the authority into line with other coastal resorts such as Blackpool.
Welcoming the proposal at Wednesday’s licensing committee meeting, Coun Mick Harness declared: “Given the public concern about sexual abuse of children elsewhere, we cannot be too careful.”
Agreement came from committee chairman Coun George Horton who insisted: “This council has to be seen to be doing the right thing.”
Coun Julie Pears revealed her enjoyment at taking young members of her family and their friends for donkey rides.
“It’s a fabulous tradition that should be celebrated,” she enthused. “The donkeys seem to be in good health - they’re not overweight.”
However, she agreed that advance criminal checks should be undertaken because the escorts to the donkeys were in physical contact with the children as they helped them on and off the animals.
Councillors want the measure to be introduced in time for the start of the holiday season at Easter, but, before it is implemented, there will be consultation with the operators themselves - there are four in East Lindsey - and any other interested parties.
Also subject to consultation will be a further meeting recommendation, again submitted by Mr Twiddy, that a formal code of conduct should be drawn up to cover such areas as duty of care to the donkeys, environment, diet, health and tethering.
Coun Pears argued that, if required, there should be a ‘drink stop’ for the animals on their way to and from the beach
Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders noted that, if adopted, the proposals were likely to increase costs – a comment heeded by Coun Jean Bradley who said things should be kept ‘simple’ for the operators.
“We must not adopt a sledgehammer approach or we risk putting them out of business,” she warned.
Coun Ken Milner expressed satisfaction that complaints from holidaymakers about welfare of donkeys had reduced in recent seasons.
“We do receive occasional complaints, but not to the same level as in the past,” responded Mr Twiddy who added the local vet who carried out the annual inspection of was a national expert on their health and welfare.