An obscure licence which put the reins on donkeys appearing at a Sheffield gala has been issued only to riding centres, The Star can reveal.
Sheffield Council staff insisted George Smith needed a riding establishment licence just two days before he was due to take his donkeys to Beighton Gala earlier this month.
But information uncovered through The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign shows the 20 riding establishment licences issued from June 2011-2014 by the council were all to riding or equestrian centres and farms.
Premises with a £216 licence could use it to cover animals at a carnival or fete but no licences were issued to people for that specific purpose.
People must obtain a licence from the council that covers the area they live in but they can then use it in other locations.
Steve Edmonds, one of the organisers of Beighton Gala, said: “I’m not surprised the licences have all been issued to riding schools because it did seem very bizarre.
“If the council was concerned about the welfare of the animals I can’t believe it could have been sorted out in two days because they said there needed to be vet visits and proper checks. It wasn’t just a paper exercise.”
The row meant children missed out on popular donkey rides at the gala and politicians united to brand the decision ‘overkill’. The story was given national coverage.
The council said it wanted to protect animals and the public and the licence was required under law.
A spokesman added: “The council has had 20 applications for riding establishments in the Sheffield area in the last three years. The licences are not specific to an event itself.
“They licence the person and premises and would cover the donkeys at attractions and fetes.”