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Featured Image Credit: Smithills Open Farm/Facebook
Smithills Open Farm is home to a variety of farm and zoo animals including cows, pigs and wallabies, as well as donkeys which children can ride during visits.
This month, one visitor to the farm shared an image of a donkey, named Bouncer, lying on the floor with two adults placing their hands on him.
The customer claimed it was 25°C on the day of their visit and said that 'although you could see the animals are well cared for', the farm was still giving out donkey rides.
"As we sat there one of the donkeys collapsed and was down for some time," the customer wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. "It was so upsetting. In this heat the welfare of the animals should've been prioritised over profit."
After the post was shared online, Smithills Open Farm took to Facebook in an attempt to dispel the rumours and share 'the truth of what actually happened'.
The farm said the scene unfolded on Saturday (16 July), when Bouncer had indeed been giving rides to children at the farm. Rather than collapsing, however, the farm claimed the donkey 'decided to get down on his knees, lie down and roll'.
"As people are aware donkeys can be very stubborn animals and he decided to stay there," the farm continued. "After a minute he stood up. At this point we tied him back up, thoroughly checked him over, untacked him and returned him to the field where he spent the rest of the day."
Staff at the farm expressed belief the reason Bouncer rolled on the floor is because of horse flies in the area, and pointed out that while the weather was hot, it was 'nothing more than what the donkeys are used to'.
The post continued: "The donkey being on the floor is most certainly NOT because he collapsed and NOT because of the heat.
"Bouncer is a five-year-old working donkey at Smithills and has been at the farm with us since January this year. Bouncer is a fit and healthy donkey that loves living and working at the farm, as do all of our animals."
The farm, which has kept donkeys for 22 years, assured the animals are 'vetted annually' and added that the workers were 'deeply upset' by the thought they were being mistreated.
I’m here at Smithills Open Farm in Bolton where the animals are keeping cool in the shade and keeping hydrated indoors! The temperature in Bolton is 31 degrees celsius at the moment @MENnewsdesk pic.twitter.com/bHrYbae2Mi— George Lythgoe (@GLythgoeNews) July 18, 2022
"Hopefully our loyal customers will understand this situation and share the truth instead of listening to people trying to destroy our family business that we have spent so long building up," it concluded.
The farm received mixed responses to the post, with some people arguing that the donkeys still shouldn't have been working in the hot temperatures, while others showed an influx of support.
Commenters responded to say that while it is important to care about animal welfare, Smithills does a good job of looking after its animals.