Local authorities from across the British Isles have reported a tenfold increase in donkey-related incidents in the nation’s towns and cities this summer, as the long-eared animals flock from their traditional seaside habitats and into the suburbs.
Soaring seaside donkey populations are proving a serious headache for council pest control officers in many urban areas, with residents complaining of noise, mess, and the intimidating presence of herds of shaggy equines wandering the country’s streets.
Common complaints include donkeys rampaging through allotments in search of carrots, huge piles of steaming donkey dung obstructing public rights of way and excessive and incessant braying during the hours of darkness.
However, conservationists, such as Donkeywatch’s Pete Bowler, say the problem is partly the result of human actions. ‘Coastal development, depleted food stocks and the dramatic decline in the popularity of seaside donkey rides are propelling inland migration. You can’t blame the donkeys for wandering into our towns,’ he continues, ‘it’s not their fault if we pepper our gardens with juicy lawns and tempting vegetable gardens.’
Most city dwellers are far from sympathetic to the animals’ plight, with local newspapers reporting donkey encounters on a daily basis. ‘We recently headlined a story about an elderly man who had a heart attack after attempting to budge an obstinate donkey from his prized begonias,’ said a reporter for the Ledbury Gazette, ‘and that’s by no means an isolated incident – only yesterday a young boy tripped over a straw hat with holes cut out for the ears and had to go into hospital.’
According to health and safety expert Pat Mewlin, the best course of action when confronted by seaside donkeys is to simply leave them alone. ‘Just leave them be, they’ll wander off eventually.’ Mewlin also advises against believing old wives tales about dealing with donkeys: ‘Hitting it with a stick and shouting at it with a Spanish accent has no affect whatsoever. Also, under no circumstances let your children approach them, else in all probability you’ll find yourself being stung for about ten quid for a five minute donkey ride.’