Animal-rights campaigners, Pacma, have reacted angrily to plans by Mijas council to improve the conditions of the famous donkey-taxis for tourists in Mijas Pueblo.
On Monday, the mayor of Mijas, Juan Carlos Maldonado, announced details of a hoped-for update to the local bylaw governing the 50-year-old donkey service. This includes limits on the weight of the tourists that can be carried and working hours for the animals.
However local spokesperson for Pacma, Andrés Cardenete said, " We are afraid that instead of looking after the welfare of the donkeys, the town hall wants to lengthen their sentence and stop any fresh complaints. What they ought to be doing is putting a stop to this scourge and leave the donkeys in peace."
On Monday the mayor and the councillor for Mobility and Transport, Nuria Rodríquez, met with the head of Malaga provincial law society, Javier Lara, and director of El Refugio del Burrito donkey sanctuary, Verónica Sánchez, to discuss proposals for a fresh set of rules for the donkey operators to adhere to.
"We have to move with the times," said the mayor, "We're going to improve the quality of life of the donkeys, which in turn means safety and service guarantees, improving things for all the people in Mijas who earn their livelihoods from this symbol of the village."
" The donkey-taxis are one of the biggest tourist attractions we've got in the municipality and we have to combine this heritage we have with the well-being of our animals, as well as improving Mijas's image as a friendly place that supports them."
Among the initiatives tabled to go in the new bylaw are the maximum permitted weight on the donkeys, rest time, working hours and quality of the stables.
"We want basic things, like if they are fit to work, i.e. not injured or in pain, to be included," explained Sánchez for the donkey sanctuary.
Pacma reacts quickly
The Pacma animal party campaigning group was quick in their criticism of the council's plans. They said that they have already reported the donkey taxi companies for failing to comply with national, regional and European directives as well as local bylaws.
"If the donkey is the symbol of Mijas, they should treat them with respect and not as a money making object," continued Cardenete, Pacma's local head.
According to Cardenete, the donkeys "still sleep standing up in dark cages, forever tied to a short rope stopping them moving while they fatten the pockets of the companies exploiting them".
Pacma are calling for the donkey-taxis to be phased out and replaced with ethical modes of transport through the steep and narrow village lanes, such as electric golf-cart-style vehicles.