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Fewer issues at 'quieter' and 'friendly' Appleby Horse Fair


Traditional Gypsy caravans lined up at Appleby Horse Fair © RSPCA

We describe this year's Appleby Horse Fair as 'quieter' and 'friendly', with fewer animal welfare issues than last year, though it wasn’t without incident. 

The Gypsy and traveller event started in the Cumbrian town on General Election Day (Thursday 8 June) and finished yesterday (Monday 12 June).

It's our biggest deployment of staff - 33 officers attended this year - and the biggest multi-agency event of the year, with six other horse organisations also involved.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said:

Though it wasn’t without incident, the fair was generally quieter than last year with a friendly atmosphere.

It is difficult to compare one year with another in terms of numbers, as the weather plays such a significant part, and of course we are constantly making changes to what we do in an effort to improve things.

This year was very wet at times and there were occasions when the access points to the River Eden had to be closed, where horses are traditionally taken to be washed, to protect animals and the public.

Pleasingly, the number of people given advice about their animals this year was well down on last year (see table below), which had been exceptionally hot.

We have two ongoing investigations, and nine horses and two dogs were taken away from the fair, which are now either in our care or the care of our partner charities.

Number of people given advice
Numbers of warnings
2017 168 12
2016 247 13
2015 148 10
2014 147 3
2013 142 10
2012 192 38
2011 346 17
2010 310 23

Dogs in hot cars

Most disappointingly, despite warnings not to leave dogs in vehicles, two dogs had to be removed from the back of an enclosed pick up truck on Friday afternoon. 

Rob continues:

Thanks to the member of the public who reported the dogs and the speed at which Cumbria Constabulary were able to get them out of the vehicle, with assistance from us, the dogs did not suffer.

They were taken to a vet to be checked over, before being returned to their owner with a warning.

No matter what we seem to do, there always seems to be someone who thinks the risk doesn’t apply to them or to their pets.

Animal welfare charities tent 

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Blue Cross sent seven people to the event, four staff came along from Bransby Horses, a vet and two donkey welfare advisors were there from The Donkey Sanctuary, three vets, two senior field officers and an education and campaigns manager from Redwings Horse Sanctuary and four field officers and one welfare support officer from World Horse Welfare. 

Education staff and volunteers from all of the animal welfare charities - all members of the National Equine Welfare Council - along with The British Horse Society (BHS) also manned an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where Gypsies and travellers were able to share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care. Now in its seventh year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring. Redwings also ran their now-annual competition to reward good examples of horse care and welfare called ‘Best in Show’ which had a really positive response from fair-goers.

Rob concludes:

This is such a great example of us all working together towards our shared goal.

As the summer weather hits its peak we urge owners to avoid leaving pets in their cars. Please take a look at our dogs die in hot cars page in case you come across this situation.

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