- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 14, 2005

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — For more than a century, teams of donkeys have carried tourists down the beach at Blackpool, on the English coast of the Irish Sea, one of Britain’s top tourist destinations. But only now are the beasts of burden getting a compulsory lunch break.

As part of a wide-ranging “employment rights” charter for donkeys announced Wednesday, Blackpool council inspectors will carry out spot-checks on the beach to ensure the animals get an hour off to munch hay.

The 200 animals working at the coastal resort in northwest England carry tourists along the beach throughout the summer.

Under the new rules, donkeys can only work from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and they get Fridays off as well as the lunch break.

They will also get an annual health check, in which officials and veterinarians will examine each animal’s hooves, ears, teeth and coat to verify they are in good condition.

A spokeswoman said the council would carry out inspections to ensure the animals, whose ancestors were brought to the region to work in coal mines, are well treated.

“Some people might think it is quite a hard day on the beach with no break,” she said. “It is an important part of our tourism business. We want the donkeys to be happy and healthy.”

Some of the rules existed already, and the council codified the regulations to make sure they are well known, the spokeswoman added.

“The donkeys’ Friday off is a bylaw that has been in place for — well, donkey’s years,” she explained.

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