Concerns about the welfare of Skegness donkeys in the blistering heatwave rages on in spite of reassurances by the RSPCA, the local authority and operators.
More than 32,000 people have now shared Kim Beasley’s original post, sparked on Tuesday by her image of donkeys with their heads hung low and no shade or water visible under the canopy - with the RSPCA coming under fire for not taking action.
Kim said: “No-one wants to know about these poor donkeys in temperatures 31degrees.
“I phoned local council, local councillor and RSPCA. They (the donkeys) were ready to collapse, and you know what- it’s the human race who are encouraging this. Skegness, you should be ashamed.”
One of the most recent comments from Ange Dyke said: “In these high temperatures they should not be out at all, they are telling people not to take your dogs out in midday temps.”
In the operator’s defence, Louis Wagner responded to the concerns on Facebook with a further image of the donkeys in the shade with buckets of water. He said: “All these people complaining about the donkeys being malnourished and not looked after, obviously don’t know them very well. The donkeys in question are treated like royalty. They’re not abused in the slightest.
“As for the shade, they have plenty of shade in this sun. Seems as though the person who took the photo of them “struggling” failed to show much of that.”
Donkeys have traditionally been run on Skegness Beach by two families - the Eptons and the Nuttalls.
The Standard understands that this week the operators have been visited by East Lindsey District Council environment officers, the RSPCA and representatives of donkey sanctuaries in Huttoft and Devon who left satisfied there was no cause for concern.
John Nuttall, whose family have operated donkeys on Skegness beach for three generations and have won awards for their care, said: “The donkeys featured in the image on Facebook do not belong to me.
“Today we gave our donkeys a 40-minute break at lunchtime and let them have dinner on the beach, but not because it was too hot - throughout the heatwave we have had a lovely sea breeze and it is not as hot here as inland.
“We have sun canopies for the donkeys, 10 buckets of water kept cool in the shade and transport them in an air-conditioned lorry.
“I’m a registered farrier so ask me if the sand is took hot for their hooves, then no it isn’t.
“We have been operating donkeys on the beach for three generations and know how they should be cared for.”
Earlier we heard from Chloe Epton, who family also operates award-winning donkeys on Skegness beach.
Although they decided not to take their donkeys to the beach today she said: “Recent posts have made out the donkeys of Skegness are being mistreated and I want to point out that this is not the case at all.
“The Epton family have owned donkeys for a huge number of years and are extremely well trained in regards to their treatment and welfare. Chris Epton is the best owner that they could possibly have as he is so passionate about them and would never put them in harms way.
“The donkey’s health are checked regularly and there are never any complaints! We have won national awards such as ‘Britain’s best donkey” and are extremely proud of the life we give them. The work they do on the beach is to give them the best treatment possible.
“The amount of love and compassion which has been given to these donkeys is endless and I hope people can see this.”
Tracy Barton of the Donkey Sanctuary, a charitable refuge in Huttoft which is now open to the public for the summer, has visited the operators and said people shouldn’t be concerned about seeing the donkeys out in the sun.
“It’s their natural environment,” she said. “My donkeys have shelters but they are not in them - they are all out enjoying the sun. They come from hot climates and cope much better with heat than the cold.”
Julie Crane, welfare advisor for the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon who covers this area, described the negative comments on Facebook as a crusade by people who know nothing about the care of donkeys.
“Some of these people are from all over the world and know nothing about the donkeys in Skegness. I visited Skegness today and the temperature was 27C and there was a lovely cool breeze. There was shelter if the donkeys wanted it and plenty of water and they were happy.
“I stood on the beach with Donkey Sanctuary plastered all over me and no member of the public complained to me about the donkeys - and it was like that when the RSPCA visited yesterday.”
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We attended the donkeys on Skegness beach within a few hours of being called, following concerns from a member of the public. We spoke to the owners and gave them advice. We’d like to thank members of the public for contacting us and if there are further concerns about these or any other animal, we would urge people to ring the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.”
Skegness Town Council confirmed they had received multiple messages from concerned residents and visitors regarding the wellbeing of the donkeys on Skegness Beach.
A statement from the council said: “We have reported this to East Lindsey District Council, who are the authority responsible for issuing licences to the donkey ride operators.
“However, the decision whether or not to take the donkeys out on the beach is down to the individual operators. The operator is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment before taking their donkeys out, and are best placed to judge whether or not they believe the conditions are suitable for their donkeys.”
A spokesman for East Lindsey District Council said environment officers had visited the donkey operators and “believe they are operating within their licence conditions”.