THE Saturday of the Appleby Horse Fair was one of the busiest in recent years however 'significant' concerns over animal welfare have marred the annual festival. 

The 2024 fair itself had attendance from 1,287 bowtops and caravans marking a significant increase from last year's 1,197.

Nevertheless, this year's count fell slightly short of 2015's record high of 1,297 attendees.

RSPCA appeals for information continue, following a horse worked to death on the Wednesday preceding the Fair on June 5.

A Shetland pony who died in the residential section at the back of the Trade Field on Saturday too, also showed all the signs of exhaustion, according to the charity. 

The RSPCA recorded 438 interventions by their officers during the event; five investigations are ongoing, and nine warnings were issued connected with the Fair.

Six equines, one dog, one puppy, one kitten, one canary cross bird, one wild caught goldfinch and one wild rabbit are in charity care. 

Gypsy and Traveller representatives, Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd, "condemned" the unidentified party responsible for the animals' death. 

Cumbria Police reported 74 arrests during the Fair compared to 42 in 2023 and 18 in 2022.

An additional 28 arrests were made through proactive police efforts leading up to the event, resulting in a total of 102 arrests.

Furthermore, over 500 traffic offence reports were filed, and more than 100 vehicles were seized for varying reasons – ranging from being suspected as stolen to causing obstruction and driving without insurance.

A sixteen-year-old also remains in hospital following an alleged assault during the festival.  

Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Coordinating Group (MASCG) and Westmorland and Furness Council’s Director of Thriving Communities, Steph Cordon, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved in the response to the Fair, for their hard work and dedication.

"There has been a particular focus on community engagement ahead of the 2024 Fair and a number of improvements were in place, as a result of feedback received from residents."

Superintendent Dan St Quintin, Gold Commander for Appleby Horse Fair, said:  "Whilst the arrest figures will grab the headlines, it is important to note that the majority resulted from the proactive enforcement action being taken, particularly on the roads, including the seizure of vehicles suspected of having been stolen elsewhere in the country.

"I am proud of the action taken to keep all the communities involved in the Fair and the road network safe. I thank and commend the hard work, fairness and diligence of all the officers, partner agencies and others who have worked really hard to facilitate this year's fair." 

The council aims to complete the post-fair clean-up by the end of the week.

As the clean-up of the festival gets underway, people will have a further opportunity to provide feedback on the 2024 Fair at the Post-Fair Public Meeting, hosted by representatives from the MASCG, which will be held at Appleby Public Hall on Wednesday, June 26, between 7pm and 8.30pm.