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Animal rights activists in Santorini, Greece, are saying that overweight tourists are crippling the island’s donkeys.

Santorini, with its iconic white homes and villas lining the hills, attracts millions of tourists each year. But the narrow streets — and areas with more than 600 steps — make it impossible to drive around in some parts. People often resort to riding a donkey or have the animal carry their bags.

Activist groups like Help the Santorini Donkeys, which has more than 17,700 followers, and The Donkey Sanctuary are saying enough is enough and are demanding the Municipality of Santorini to do something about it. The Help the Santorini Donkeys group created a petition advocating the end of animal abuse for the island’s equines and donkeys and has more than 68,000 signatures.

“These donkeys are forced to stand around in the sun in their own faces at the side of the path and all they do is go up and down, up and down carrying people who are too lazy to just walk or take cable car. In addition, the farmers give them lashings to make them go faster up the path when carrying tourists etc,” the petition reads.   

The Donkey Sanctuary, which rescues UK donkeys from neglect and abuse to an international animal welfare organization, works with 35 countries worldwide, has 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe and cares for more than 6,000 donkeys and mules.

“Poor quality saddles and bridles are often used, and safety guidelines are regularly ignored, placing tourists at risk of injury. Donkeys can be made to travel long distances in harsh climates and tough environments,” the charity explained on its webpage.

In a successful meeting on Saturday, the Municipality of Santorini met with representatives of animal welfare societies, animal rights group and animal owners and agreed to make aimed immediate changes and improve the welfare conditions of these animals progressively and steadily. The municipality decided to extend and improve shaded areas to protect the animals during Greece’s hot summer months, which average around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the Municipality of Thera will update the legislation regarding how much weight the animals can endure, which should be no more than 20% of its body weight.

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