RSPCA officers gear up for Appleby Horse Fair

The Gypsy and traveller event - which begins on Thursday (7 June) and goes on until Monday (11 June) - is the RSPCA’s biggest deployment of staff and the biggest multi-agency undertaking of the year, with six other horse organisations also involved. 

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This year 31 RSPCA officers will be attending including specialist equine officers from across England and Wales. Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, British Horse Society, The Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings Horse Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare are also sending staff to work in various capacities.

RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “There’s nothing else as big as Appleby for us from a staffing or multi-agency point of view.

“The RSPCA has officers coming from all over England and Wales to ensure animal welfare is a priority at the event.

“It’s a great - and after several years, long-standing and successful - example of everyone working together towards the same goal.”

Blue Cross is sending five people from their horse team and two from education. Bransby Horses is sending a team of five people. The Donkey Sanctuary is sending five donkey welfare advisers and one vet.

Redwings Horse Sanctuary have six staff in attendance - three veterinary surgeons, a senior field officer, their education and campaigns manager, and a campaigns officer. World Horse Welfare will be sending five field officers and one UK support officer.

There will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it. The vet station will be staffed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (8/9/10 June) between 10am to 4pm.

Chief Inspector Melloy said: “Fair-goers can go to the vet station or approach our officers - or those from the other horse charities attending - on the ground if they are concerned about an animal at the event, or they can call us on 0300 1234 999.

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“The number of horses being worked to exhaustion is something we’re going to be keeping a close eye on this year.

“Working an equine repeatedly over several days, even though it may appear to have recovered, has an accumulative effect. We often see different people with the same animal who may not be aware of how much work it has done that day or on previous days at the fair.

“And sadly every year there seems to be at least one dog in a hot car incident, despite warnings about the danger. Day-trippers should not bring dogs to the event.”

Last year two dogs had to be removed from the back of an enclosed pick-up truck. Cumbria Constabulary were able to get them out of the vehicle, with assistance from the RSPCA, and fortunately, the dogs did not suffer.

They were taken to a vet to be checked over, before being returned to their owner with a warning. “They were lucky,” said Chief Inspector Melloy.

There will also be an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where Gypsies and travellers can share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care.

Now in its eighth year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring.

The RSPCA will be tweeting from the event from its @RSPCA_Frontline account and Redwings will be running their #BestAtAppleby welfare awards again this year to recognise excellent examples of equine health and horsemanship, with the overall champion and junior champion announced on Sunday.