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International animal welfare charity, based in the UK, working to protect and care for donkeys and mules.
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First global strategy on animal welfare

26 May 2017

A Donkey Sanctuary team were in Paris this week joining delegates from 180 countries attending the 85th General Session of the OIE World Assembly of Delegates.

So what has this got to do with donkey welfare?

The OIE (or World Organisation for Animal Health) is one of the most important international groups that we engage with because it’s responsible for setting internationally recognised animal health and welfare standards. What’s considered poor animal welfare in one country might be seen as acceptable in another, so having a set of guidelines that governments and authorities accept and follow is crucial. So decisions being made this week in Paris might end up improving the lives and welfare of donkeys from Peru to Pakistan.
These conferences are an opportunity for us to meet delegates and to provide reasons why we think some of their measures need to be strengthened or created to improve animal welfare. And delegates want to seek us out and ask our advice as recognised experts in our field.

Our team works tirelessly, arranging meetings, tracking down key delegates and seeking support for our key issues. And that hard work has paid off this week with the OIE’s adoption of the first global strategy on animal welfare – this aims for “A world where the welfare of animals is respected, promoted and advanced”.

Delegates have been eagerly discussing with us how we can help get the new guidelines implemented and benefitting working animals. This is something that we’ll be working on with World Horse Welfare, Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad and The Brooke and we’ll be letting you know just how we’re going to do that over the coming months.

Donkey Sanctuary replaces stolen trailer in nick of time

24 May 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has recently helped the NSPCA in South Africa to replace a stolen trailer used to transport donkeys. It comes in the nick of time as 19 donkeys, recently rescued from the skin trade that is decimating donkey populations in the country, were urgently in need of transport to safer premises.

The trailer, used by the NSPCA’s Special Investigations Unit, was stolen in March 2017 from their training centre premises in Alberton; compromising the welfare organisation’s ability to respond in emergency situations. “This was a blow to our organisation,” explains Christine Kuch from NSPCA. “The trailer is an essential piece of equipment, especially in our current work assisting donkeys.”

Earlier this year, the NSPCA had rescued 19 donkeys from being illegally traded for their skins – they were placed at a temporary shelter near the Lesotho border. But there were fears among NSPCA staff that the donkeys could well be stolen where they were, but without a trailer, it was impossible to move them.

Just days before the trailer was stolen, Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary had been visiting the team at NSPCA and meeting with communities affected by the skin trade. He was shocked to hear the news and immediately responded to the NSPCA’s call for help. He said: “Obviously being able to quickly relocate donkeys out of harm’s way is an important part of NSPCA’s responsiveness to welfare needs, particularly in terms of the skin trade. NSPCA have been working incredibly hard reaching out to donkeys and communities affected by the trade, and I’m glad we were able to step in and help them out.”

The trailer, now in the possession of the NSPCA, has this week been used to move five of the donkeys to a permanent home in Bethlehem in the Free State, and the remaining 14 will be moved in due course. Christine reported to us recently: “We are delighted to report a positive, uplifting and heart-warming outcome relating to donkeys rescued from the horrific trade in their skins. However, the skin trade continues, as do our efforts to monitor situations, respond to information received and to take whatever steps may be appropriate when necessary.”

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Under the Skin report, launched in January 2017, revealed how donkey populations around the world are being decimated by both a legal and illegal trade in donkey skins, with African countries being primary targets. Dozens of reports about cruel and illegal methods of killing donkeys for the trade have been received by The Donkey Sanctuary, revealing that some of the animals have been stolen or poached, poisoned, clubbed to death and even skinned alive.

The NSCPA, along with Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary and Highveld Horse Care Unit are all reporting horrific cases of donkeys being stolen or starved in order to export the skins. They are part of The Donkey Sanctuary’s network of partners across Africa – funded to help promote donkey welfare through community, training and veterinary programme.

Timothy and Walter's moving party

23 May 2017

Much-loved adoption donkeys Timothy and Walter are stepping down from their donkey assisted therapy roles next month - and we're having a party to celebrate!

These two stars of the donkey assisted therapy team have looked after streams of children who use the service and have brought a smile to hundreds of faces.

Their well-deserved retirement means the half-brothers will be making the short trot across the road from their home in Cottage Barn to Shelter One in the heart of our Sidmouth Sanctuary.

Our fabulous supporters will still be able to adopt Timothy and Walter, and to mark the occasion we are holding a tea party which we would love you to attend.

The celebrations will include a Q&A with their team of grooms, as well as a chance to meet the boys who will be presented with their special celebratory cake.

The party will take place on Friday, 2 June 2017 from 2pm-3.30pm and will be first come, first serve for a maximum of 100 attendees. To secure your name on the party entrance list, please fill in your details below so we know who is coming along.

We can't wait to see you and celebrate this special pair of donkeys.

Note: Please fill out the details of each person intending to attend.

Name * Phone number * Email *

If you go down to the woods today

23 May 2017

Canny Hart works in our welfare team and is currently working towards The Donkey Sanctuary’s Diploma. This is an in-house qualification that in part encourages staff to step out of their normal day to day environments. Canny recently joined me on a foray and writes about how the module she chose led her into the woods.

D is for donkey. Usually it is when you work at The Donkey Sanctuary, however, in my world (temporarily) D has not been for donkey, but for dormouse. Delicate, delightful but disturbingly devastatingly in decline.

Seeing a dormouse has long been on my bucket list and last week, despite having worked at the Sanctuary for many years, and having lived in the beautiful Devon countryside for many more, along came perhaps a little surprising first for me. It was a first that left me feeling privileged and honoured. A first that delighted my middle-aged awareness giving me a greater appreciation of all things bright and beautiful and all creatures great and small. My very first and long awaited encounter with a dormouse!

Just over a year ago, I was given the opportunity to do The Donkey Sanctuary’s Diploma. One of the development link modules that I chose for my Diploma was Wildlife and the Environment and this is how I found myself to be down in the woods, taking part in another one of several dormouse box checks that I have been fortunate enough to attend over the past 12 months.

Recognising that all guardians of our countryside have a responsibility in protecting the environments of endangered species, several years ago The Donkey Sanctuary, under the expert guidance of Devon Mammal Society’s Adrian Bayley, and in line with the National Dormouse Monitoring Program, permitted 50 wooden boxes be placed on carefully chosen trees 20 metres apart in our woodland. The boxes being regularly monitored between May and October, but somewhat rather disappointingly and on only one occasion was a dormouse found to be in residence.

During the winter the boxes were relocated, in an 'S' shaped transect to a different part of the woods, in the hope that more dormice would be found and their numbers and basic biometric data could be recorded and reported to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

The first check of these newly sited boxes delivered a whole host of wildlife including marsh, blue and great tit nests complete with beautiful and perfectly uniformed clutches of eggs. In one a wood mouse nest, complete with disgruntled male wood mouse and in another a huge queen hornet who had taken up residence. A timely reminder to take care when checking the boxes, with many creatures having the equivalent to a time-share in them you never know what you may come across!

Early purple orchids, bluebells, a roe deer and most significantly the beginnings of a dormouse nest were just some of the other delights to behold on this visit, but alas still no dormice.

That was until last Friday when back down to the woods we went. Filled full of hope, off we went to find the first box, number 1. Slipping and sliding on the rain soaked bluebell leaves we clambered up a steeply sloped rise until the box came into sight. A bright yellow duster was used to plug the hole at the back of the box stopping any of the inhabitants from escaping before being recorded. Bright yellow because it lessens the chances of it getting accidentally left behind in the woods. Carefully we lifted the lid to reveal an untidy nest of dried leaves. Messy nests made from a mixture of materials such as moss and leaves (with no weaving) are commonly made by a wood mouse. So without any expectation of a dormouse living in this box, you can imagine our complete shock, surprise and then overwhelming joy when out popped the beautiful and inquisitive little face of dormouse! An 18g male dormouse to be precise with a white tip to the end of his thick furry tail.

Quite amazingly, this little chap was not the only one to be found during this round of checks. Box number 30 also bore the gift of a dormouse and several of the other boxes contained juvenile marsh tits at varying stages of being ready to fly the nest.

We could not be more thrilled that the delicate, delightful dormice who reside within our beautiful and unspoiled woodland, seem to be giving us the thumbs up on the new location of their little wooden homes and we hope that they will continue to thrive in the sanctuary that we are providing for them.

Who knows what we will find when we return to the woods next month. Between now and then 'D' will once again be for donkey and I will return to my desk with the wonderful memories of meeting my very first dormouse etched in my mind for a very long time to come, grateful for the opportunity that I have been given through The Donkey Sanctuary’s Diploma, and with an immense feeling of pride that we are really trying to provide a sanctuary for all.

For more information on dormice, please visit the Devon Mammal Group website.

Canny Hart
Welfare and Training Co-ordinator

Brambles, Tea and Apple Sauce

23 May 2017

At The Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham we have been trying out new forms of enrichment to keep our donkeys stimulated, happy and healthy. Now the weather has got warmer and the donkeys have been grazing in the fields, our staff have tried out three new ways to give the donkeys novel and exciting tastes and smells in the fields.

Flavoured tea

The donkeys enjoyed slurping some water infused with flavoured teas. Contrary to expectation the peppermint flavour came out the least favourite! Not only did the donkeys turn their noses up at it, they then picked up the bucket and tipped the water everywhere! But the wild berry and the mint and liquorice flavoured water went down a treat. Many a donkey nose had little drips of coloured water where they had sampled these interesting new flavours.

Apple poles

As a special treat the donkeys got some hard plastic poles dotted about their fields covered in no added sugar apple sauce. It was delightful to see the donkeys standing side by side, licking the sauce off the poles and then off each other’s noses! A number of donkeys tried to pick the poles up and carry them off just for themselves, only to find that the poles were too slippery and that they had no choice but to share with their friends.

Bramble nets

Donkeys are primarily foragers, loving nothing more than a hedge full of various leaves, brambles, nettles and grasses. So, in order to play on the donkeys’ natural love of foraging, the usual hay nets were filled with fresh bramble shoots. The donkeys spent a long time nibbling the leaves and shoots through the netting, mimicking the longer amount of time their ancestors would spend foraging in the wild. After hoovering up the few shoots that had fallen to the floor the donkeys were soon looking about for more!

Related articles: Natural sense of curiosityThyme for enrichmentSpicing things up

Sponsor my RideLondon challenge

22 May 2017

Adrian Greenwood is assistant retail and catering manager for The Donkey Sanctuary charity shop in Otley, Leeds. He’s also helping raise funds for The Donkey Sanctuary by joining the thousands of sponsored cyclists taking part in the 2017 Prudential RideLondon, the 100-mile bike ride held this July. Here, he discusses his training regime for the challenge ahead.

I’ve worked at The Donkey Sanctuary charity shop in Otley, Leeds, for just over two years now. It’s been a privilege to serve customers with great gifts and food and drink, to witness the care given to donkeys at our sanctuaries, and to see the work of our donkey assisted therapy programme, which helps children with additional needs through emotional and physical bonding with donkeys.

These experiences inspired me to raise funds for the charity by seeking sponsorship as I train to take part in the 2017 Prudential RideLondon. It’s a gruelling 100-mile bike ride that starts and ends in the capital but takes in the hills of the Surrey countryside. We must complete the route – made famous by the 2012 London Olympic Games – within eight and a half hours. Last year, over 26,000 people participated, raising millions of pounds for charities.

I decided to take part soon after buying my first road bike. Until two years ago, I was overweight due to inactivity, and had been dealing with bouts of depression and social anxiety following chronic back pain and a knee injury. I’ve since lost around 30 kg, am happier and healthier, and people wonder how I find the time for so many activities. I currently play semi-contact rugby (League) twice a week, and have started to play full-contact Rugby Union. They’re a great form of cardio and help to build stamina.

I have personal training sessions every other week and try to get into the gym as much as possible. I’m also cycling as much as I can; a few weeks ago, I cycled the 47-mile round trip from home to The Donkey Sanctuary in Leeds, where I had my picture taken with Doodles the donkey. The ride took five hours, which would mean it would take me just over 10 hours to finish 100 miles. I need to cut this time by two hours to be able to finish within the RideLondon time limit.

I’m up for the challenge! The minimum sponsorship amount to be reached by participants is £600, but I have a personal goal of raising £1,000 for The Donkey Sanctuary. At the time of writing, I’ve managed to raise £800, well on my way to reaching my goal – but it would be great to raise more.

You can help me with my journey by liking and sharing my Facebook fundraising page. Please also consider sponsoring me, no matter how small the amount. You can do this via my Facebook page by clicking on the ‘shop now’ button, or following the link below to my Virgin Money Giving fundraising page. All money raised through Virgin Money Giving is given to The Donkey Sanctuary, no commission is taken by the site.

Thank you in advance!

Animal welfare science Dr Dolittle style!

16 May 2017

Just like Dr Dolittle, I bet you talk to your animals and some of you may say your animals talk right back! Many of our fabulous staff and volunteers at The Sanctuary can be heard deep in conversation with their donkey friends – who are very good listeners! Up until a few years ago researchers would say such behaviour had no place in science. However, animal welfare science has come on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades and it is now accepted that, in order to find out what an animal likes and dislikes, one just has to ask. And how do we do this? A simple example is to give an animal a free choice of two environments and observe which one the animal uses the most. You’ve asked the question and the animal has given you the answer.

Up until now our assertion that donkeys need shelter has been anecdotal based upon decades of observing donkey behaviour but with no hard science behind it. And because there was no scientific evidence the various laws and welfare codes relating to horses and donkeys are pretty vague about the need for shelter. In order to try and establish once and for all that our assertion was correct we have spent the past couple of years collaborating with scientists from two UK universities, a South West pony trust and a well known international competitive sport rider to ask horses, ponies and donkeys the question - Do you need shelter and, if so, when?

Our research was based in the temperate climate of the UK. We had to ask a lot of animals to make this study robust and one that would stand up to statistical analysis. 127 donkeys and 73 horses were observed at least weekly throughout the changing seasons and detailed data obtained regarding the weather conditions and behaviour of the individuals in response to that weather. Nearly 14,000 individual observations are being analysed by the research team using very complex maths!

At last the results are nearly in and we will be able to say, with the backing of sound science, that, given the choice, donkeys spend much less time outdoors than in and appear to be significantly more affected by rain than horses. Other areas of the study have focussed on the different characteristics of the donkey’s fur when compared to horses and mules and have assessed how different equines lose heat to their environment.

This is ground-breaking work that we hope will be published before too long will be used to inform decision-makers who are involved with revising and updating UK welfare codes and could bring about real and positive change for the welfare of donkeys.

And you thought we were just a donkey sanctuary!

Special care to get Spanish foal suckling

12 May 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary’s team in Spain is currently taking special care of a newborn foal who is starting life with a struggle.

Indiana was born under the care of El Refugio Del Burrito last week and has found it difficult to suckle. His mother, Strawberry, was abandoned into the Sanctuary’s care while she was pregnant, along with another donkey called Cacahuete.

Indiana was very weak and could not feed from his mother by himself, so the team took them both to an equine hospital in Cordoba which has an equine neonatal unit.

The foal arrived at the hospital with hypothermia and hypoglycaemia and needed intravenous rehydration and antibiotics.

He remains in the hospital and is recovering very well; he is being fed manually while having lessons trying to teach him to get milk from his mother by himself.

Rosa Chaparro from El Refugio Del Burrito said: “The first hours of life are crucial. We milked Strawberry and fed Indiana, but he was still very weak.

“He is still in the neonatal unit, but he has urinated which is such a good sign. Now we are just waiting for him to feed from his mother by himself.

“Strawberry is such a good mum and she doesn’t leave him alone for even a minute. Indiana is very alert and happy and we will keep trying to teach him to suck.

“We are praying for him and looking forward to getting them both back here at the Sanctuary.”

'Like' El Refugio Del Burrito's Facebook page and follow the progress of Indiana as continues on the road to recovery.

Saving Sally from squalor

11 May 2017

Sally, the mule, is now living at our Town Barton Farm, where she is free to relax, play and roam safely in the company of her new friend Pilgrim. Sadly life had not always been this way for Sally.

When I first met her, she was living in what can only be described as squalor, she was stood in thick mud, with no food, water or clean resting area. The environment she roamed in was full of hazards which could have caused her serious injury.

She had developed a winter coat to help her keep warm, but underneath this thick layer of hair she was very thin, lacking muscle and fat coverage of her ribs, spine and hip bones. It was a thoroughly depressing situation.

Like a lot of mules in Great Britain, Sally was a result of indiscriminate breeding between a stallion donkey and pony mare. She was owned by a horse dealer who was overrun with equines, including stallion donkey Fred.

Fred had previously fathered mules after he got into a field of mares. In fact, I have recently found out that one of Sally’s half-brothers was already here at The Donkey Sanctuary after his new owner relinquished him into our care.

After a very frank conversation with their owner about the poor welfare situation these animals were in, it was agreed that Sally and three donkeys (including Fred) would be brought into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary where they would receive the veterinary, farrier and dental care they needed as well as professional assessment of Sally’s behaviour.

Since she was born, Sally had very little handling, and when it was necessary for her to be caught, wormed or have her feet trimmed, the methods used to carry out these tasks were far from positive.

Needless to say, these experiences made Sally very wary of humans. Her mother, a coloured cob pony, was also wary and the pair had not been weaned, so they spent two years avoiding human contact wherever possible, so much so her previous owners nicknamed her Psycho Sally.

The sad truth is that Sally is not a ‘psycho’. Like most animals (including us), Sally does not react well to situations where she feels threatened or unsafe. Her behaviour in these situations can be challenging and careful consideration needs to be given when working with Sally to ensure that she, and her handlers, are kept safe.

The unfortunate reality is that Sally is a product of human error; her breeding, her living environment and the poor experiences she has encountered from a young age will have all played a part in shaping her behaviour. That being said Sally is not a lost cause, it will take time, skill and expertise to work with Sally to build plenty of positive experiences into her daily routine.

Our farm staff will look to establish a relationship of trust where Sally can anticipate the outcome of human contact so it becomes less frightening for her to be around her grooms and those who care for her.

Despite her poor start, in many ways, Sally is one of the lucky ones. Sadly we see mules all too often who are either not planned, or have been bred or acquired with very little knowledge or experience. Many are being managed in ways which compromises their welfare and/or have been exposed to poor handling which leads to the development of coping behaviours which are so ingrained it provides little hope for their future.

These cases are very difficult and need to be professionally assessed on a case by case basis to establish the best option for that individual mule in the long term. Of course, prevention is better than cure, and many of these cases could have been easily prevented by responsible breeding from the outset.

Those who own a donkey stallion, may feel that the one or two offspring produced is not significant to the wider issues caused by indiscriminate breeding but as this story demonstrates, in his young life, Fred, has fathered several mules, none of which were planned and at least two of his offspring have ended up in our care due to their challenging behaviour. I am pleased to say that Fred has now been castrated so his days of being a new father are well and truly behind him.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we were able to be there for Sally when she needed help and we will work to give her a future which is so much brighter than her past.

Related articles: A future full of hope for Fiona and HarrisEric and Jasper hitch a lift

Teamwork and traffic jams to rescue Alfie and Jemima

8 May 2017

Lifelong friends Alfie and Jemima, came into our care following a joint operation involving Derbyshire police, the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and Bransby Horses.

Unfortunately their owners had failed to act upon the advice and guidance given to them by welfare agencies and with the situation worsening, a more direct approach needed to be taken.

The police applied for a warrant which provided legal access to the property so a veterinary surgeon could assess the donkeys fully. Alfie and Jemima were found to be grossly overweight and suffering from overgrown and damaged hooves. Their field, which was also home to two large cobs, was littered with physical hazards such as sharp metal and wire, but it was also infested with ragwort.

Ragwort contains toxic compounds which cause liver damage to equines and other livestock animals and in many instances ingestion can be fatal. Ragwort is easily identifiable and must be removed from fields in a safe and controlled manner, extensive advice on ragwort is available via the link below.

The owner of the donkeys failed to accept the welfare issues that had been identified by the vet and as their behaviour became more volatile it was clear that the situation was not going to be resolved amicably. Provisions within the Animal Welfare Act, allowed police to take all the equines into possession without owner consent, so arrangements could be made to transport the donkeys to our Derbyshire Centre.

Our drivers were on hand to ensure they had a safe, steady journey. The horses also needed to be removed but these proved to be a challenge to handle, so it was all hands on deck to corral them safely using a pen system, before coaxing them onto the horse lorry destined for World Horse Welfare.

While all this was going on, traffic on the main road had to be stopped, so Donkey Welfare Adviser Pam Moon donned a florescent tabard and assisted the police with traffic control. Finally it was time to leave and release the waiting traffic which had backed up so much that we were told it had made the traffic reports on the local radio station.

Alfie and Jemima soon settled into their new surroundings. They were given pain relief to ease their suffering and make walking more comfortable for them. X-Rays were taken of their hooves and working in conjunction with the vet, a farrier began a programme of remedial trimming to address the abnormal shape of their feet.

The farm staff at the Derbyshire Centre have worked hard to manage the donkeys’ diet and monitor their weight to ensure the scales are going down and not up and they are already beginning to look much better.

Thankfully, after having some time to reflect, the owner agreed to relinquish ownership of the donkeys to The Donkey Sanctuary meaning we can continue to provide Alfie and Jemima with all the love and specialist care they need to lead happy and enriched lives for many years to come.

This outcome was only achieved thanks to the combined effort of all the agencies involved, a true celebration of what can be achieved with a little creativity, compassion and collaboration.

External links: Ragwort adviceRelated articles: Keeping the wheels turningEric and Jasper hitch a lift

Dumped donkey finds forever family

4 May 2017

This poor little donkey was left for dead. But when one donkey lover found out about his plight, she gave him a loving home for life.

Daithi Beag was one of two foals abandoned on a dumping ground. Tied to a tree, without food or shelter, they didn't stand a chance.

With the temperatures plummeting, the pair were forgotten about and just left to cope alone with the horrendous winter storms.

Sadly, by the time we were alerted to their plight, Daithi's helpless forgotten friend had not been strong enough to survive his horrendous ordeal.

Daithi was starving and traumatised, but we found him just in time.

The abandoned foal captured the heart of one of our Irish guardian owners Siobhain, who immediately picked up the phone to find out if he was available for rehoming.

Siobhain very kindly offered to give him a loving home alongside her existing two guardian donkeys Irene and Rua.

The Sanctuary team were aware that Daithi Beag suffered from an overshot jaw, also known as ‘parrot mouth’, following several dental examinations and treatments. This condition occurs when the top incisor teeth's front edge is further forward than that of the lower teeth, requiring more than a standard annual dental check for Daithi - a big commitment for any prospective guardian home to take on.

After many discussions and phone calls, delivery day finally arrived five months later and as the saying goes 'All good things do come to those who wait.'

Ian Colton, our local Donkey welfare adviser, was on site for the delivery of Daithi Beag and to ensure that the young donkey settled in well with new companions Irene and Rua. Ian will continue to monitor this home and offer ongoing advice as needed.

Eugene Butler, who also works at The Donkey Sanctuary, was delighted to be able deliver Daithi Beag to his fabulous new home and family. This was very much a different scenario from when he collected him in such a sad and compromised state.

The family are absolutely "over the moon" with little Daithi. He has settled in well with his new companions and all three donkeys are now guaranteed a very bright future ahead of them.

Thank you to all our supporters for your continued support to ensure abandoned donkeys like Daithi have the hope of being rescued.

Donate today to help us be there for donkeys like Daithi.

Spring Raffle 2017 results

3 May 2017

We are delighted to announce the three winning ticket numbers for our Spring Raffle 2017, which was drawn on Wednesday, 3 May 2017 at the launch of Donkey Week by our CEO Mike Baker.

The winning tickets are:

1st prize (£5,000)
Mr Jones, Blackburn

2nd prize winner (£1,000 or Luxury Break at Sidmouth Harbour Hotel)
Mrs Spencer, Bradford

3rd prize winner (£200 x 10)
Mrs Elder, Edinburgh
Mrs Merrick, Narborough
Mr Ward, Surrey
Mrs Woolcock, St Ives
Mrs Gill, Doncaster
Mrs Wray, Armagh
Mrs Lowe, Halesowen
Mrs Gardner, Birmingham
Mrs Pethick, Bude
Mrs Reid, Taunton

Fast Responder winners (‘Sooty’ the donkey x 10)
Ticket Numbers: 6071942, 2424216, 4862664, 6212576, 4286960, 4832103, 4516216, 6011259, 3429322, 6103669

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in our Spring Raffle this year.

Justice for Jenny and friends

26 April 2017

As welfare advisers we are often called to situations where donkey welfare is far from ideal, but occasionally there are times when your heart just sinks with sadness. Jenny’s story was one of those occasions. Jenny was an aged mare who had spent most of her life being sold from one person to the next.

Her passport showed she was once destined for slaughter in Ireland but was later sold through a horse sale in Cheshire before ending up on a yard belonging to a horse dealer. The yard was overrun with over 100 equines, including three donkeys and a mule. We were called to the property by RSPCA Inspectors who were concerned for their welfare. Enforcement action taken by the local authority a few weeks previously had resulted in the euthanasia and removal of a number of suffering horses and ponies, but the donkeys remained on site.

On my arrival it was clear the situation was dire and far worse than anticipated. The previous year's foals had not been sold, but breeding was continuing. Many of the mares were in foal and the stallions still on site. Numbers were too high, basic provision of food and water was absent, and the living environment was nothing short of appalling. The donkeys were in poor condition, they were seriously underweight, infested with lice, and their coats matted with excrement.

Jenny was in the poorest body condition, she had muscle wastage and virtually no fat covering her bones. It is vital that owners are able to monitor their donkey’s body condition and take appropriate steps to ensure that they do not become under or over weight so to avoid health problems and prevent suffering.

I noticed that Jenny had trouble eating the biscuit I gave her, she had a lump on the left side of her face. On closer inspection this was found to be a mass of impacted forage which had accumulated within her mouth which had begun to decompose and smelt rotten. Running my hand along the side of the teeth, I could feel that they were extremely sharp. Dental disease in donkeys can have serious welfare implications.

The stoic nature of donkeys means they can often hide the pain and suffering caused by the lack of proper dental care. Often poor dental health can go unnoticed for years, but it can be easily prevented by having yearly visits by a fully qualified equine dental technician who will always give owners a dental chart explaining what work is needed to maintain a happy healthy mouth. Jenny’s hooves were overgrown, her fore hooves had started to curl upwards at the toe. She was in desperate need of proper farrier care.

After discussions with the owner and the local authority, an equine vet was called to re-assess the condition of the donkeys and as a result Jenny and her friend, Fred, were signed over to The Donkey Sanctuary along with a mule called Sally and another donkey called Snowie who had been housed elsewhere. The final donkey, Fiona, was pregnant so remained on site initially but she too came into our care at a later date.

Jenny’s story doesn’t end there, a few days after arriving into our care, she displayed subtle signs of strangles, a contagious infection which requires prompt veterinary intervention and strict isolation protocols to prevent the spread of the disease. Although the bacteria causing the infection was confirmed by tests, Jenny’s symptoms were mild in nature. It is likely that Jenny was a ‘carrier’ of the disease meaning she harboured the bacteria whilst appearing outwardly healthy till her health was compromised by her poor condition and the additional stress of moving locations. Jenny and her friends underwent a series of treatments and tests to ensure they were clear of the infection before joining a herd.

Over many months, with the support of World Horse Welfare, we worked with the owner to try and improve conditions for the remaining equines kept at the dealer's yard whilst awaiting the result of the official investigation by the local authority. Last month, their owner was successfully prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of horses, ponies and donkeys.

The court disqualified the owner from keeping any equine indefinitely and handed down a suspended prison sentence. County Councillor Gill Heath, communities’ leader at Staffordshire County Council said: “It is clear that the business being operated at this farm had serious issues, and resulted in serious consequences for the horses, donkeys and ponies that were being kept there. By working with voluntary organisations for animal welfare, we were able to ensure the safety of the remaining animals, and make sure the horse dealer was brought to justice.’’

Helping donkeys like Jenny and her friends, requires a lot of time, resources and in many cases, oodles of patience, compassion and empathy. Our commitment to provide these donkeys with a safe and secure future for the rest of their lives is only possible thanks to the kindnesses and generosity of our supporters without whom none of this would be possible. Thank you for helping us be there when they need us the most.

External links: Redwings strangles information packRelated articles: Saving Sally from squalor A future full of hope for Fiona and Harris

Town Barton Farm welcomes new arrivals

26 April 2017

We are Helen Cleverton and Becky Godley from Town Barton Farm which is home to 141 mules and hinnies and specialises in care and behaviour training for these highly intelligent and sensitive animals. There was a group of mules at our Sanctuary in Ireland that were moving over to our farm and we were lucky enough to visit them to learn the key points about their individual behaviour training needs. This would make the move much easier for the mules and help us to understand them and build upon the training progress they’ve already made.

We arrived at Eugene Butler’s holding base in Ireland to meet a group of mules that he had been working with for a number of weeks that were being prepared to move over to own Barton – one of our outlying farms not open to the public in the UK.

Charlie was the first mule we met, who Eugene told us had had a rough start in life. She was in a bad way when she arrived at Eugene’s and we could see that she was still worried, but with his careful and quiet handling she now trusted him and allowed him to catch and lead her.

We then met Lugs. She has an amazing presence, a large mule, standing at 14.2hh and over 400kg. She seemed very friendly and loves attention. Eugene told us that she was always the first one to be involved in whatever was going on!

Helen’s eyes lit up when we saw Pirelli. He is a striking dun mule, with beautiful dark features. Eugene told us that he is very confident and can be boisterous at times.

Peanut Ryan was the next to meet. He is much more nervous than the others, and it was very apparent that Eugene hadn’t concentrated on working with him yet, although Eugene was able to catch him and lead him, with a very gentle approach.

Lastly, we met Lily and Pauline, a fairly nervous and shy pair. They were stabled together as they are very bonded. Although they are close, they are much better to be worked with once separated. Eugene was able to catch them and lead them, individually.

All of the mules we saw were stabled separately for behaviour work, which Eugene finds easier when working with them. It was lovely to see Eugene with the mules and to be able to learn first-hand their individual needs and how they can be handled.

These beautiful mules moved to Town Barton recently, with thanks to Mullins Transport and of course Eugene, who was there to oversee the handover. They all looked amazing as they enjoyed a good play and roll in the bark chip area and we’re delighted to see them all settling in well.

We really look forward to working with this group and we will update you all on their progress.

Challenging circumstances in the brick kilns

25 April 2017

When we post about our international work to improve donkey/mule welfare, there are often people who simply can’t believe how or why the animals end up in the situations that they are in. Some people express real anger towards the owners or handlers of the animals but the reality is that the lives of the people in many areas that we work are also extremely hard as a result of poverty, economic crisis and very poor living conditions. This really hit home for me on my recent trip to Egypt where I travelled with staff from our partner project, the Egyptian Society for the Protection and Welfare of Working Animals, to some of the brick kiln sites where they are trying hard to improve conditions for the working animals.

The brick kilns are busy places, where all workers, human and animal, are under extreme pressure to reach targets of producing large number of bricks every day. The kilns are in the desert, in hot, dry, dusty conditions with black smoke billowing from the chimneys, churning clouds of pollution into the sky. The majority of the workers are children and young men, dashing to and from the kiln oven with donkey carts laden with bricks, the loads so heavy that the donkeys struggle to move at all as they are asked to start pulling. Their sad, distant eyes show you how much suffering they have already endured and how they have become so switched off to the world.

But what struck me most at one of the kilns was the tiny size of one of the young boys working there – his name was Mohammed, just 10 years old. He was busy helping with the cutting of the bricks, throwing damaged bits up onto the conveyor belt which takes the rubbish away to be remoulded into a new brick once again. His wide, bright smile was enough to melt anyone’s heart and matched that of any 10 year old child you might meet around the world. Except this boy had no chance of a real childhood, his youth stripped away as he started work at just 9 years old, carrying out 8 to 10 hour shifts in this most hostile of environments. Mohammed loved my camera – it was clear he was a cheeky little lad, still full of childish fun despite the adult world he has been thrust into. He took a couple of minutes to leave his work station and ask for his photo to be taken, then one of him with his friends, and of all the other workers too. It was so wonderful to see his great big smile as he looked at the photos we had taken that I offered him my camera to take some photos himself. He relished this chance and it was wonderful to give him that brief instant of childish fun as a momentary break from the hardship of his work. As I watched him go back to his work station I struggled to hold back the tears, wishing that he could be given back his childhood to play, learn and enjoy his young years. Despite my internal struggle, he reached his station and continued to do his work with the beautiful ear to ear grin lighting up his little face. For young boys in the kilns I am told that they feel they gain a sense of manhood – an ability to earn themselves money which makes them into a ‘bigger man’.

So yes, the donkeys have hard lives and our partners around the world are working extremely hard to improve conditions for them through training local service providers such as farriers and harness makers, providing veterinary treatments for the animals and education for brick kiln owners and workers. Their efforts are evident in the kilns were they have worked but there are many more kilns we have not yet been able to reach. Brick kilns present a complex system with multiple stakeholders; we are doing everything we can to improve conditions for the animals in the brick kilns, but please also spare a thought for the people who are faced with these challenging circumstances too.

Written by Anna Saillet, Lead-Behaviour

We're in!

24 April 2017

Well, following on from our last blog we are all in and settling down to life at the new hospital. Desks have been unpacked and organised, the drug cupboard is stocked and locked, the theatre has been christened with our first surgeries (sarcoid removals and castrations), the stocks in the new examination rooms have been in use for x-rays, dentals and standing surgeries and the stables have been filled and emptied and cleaned as the donkeys have come and gone.

It has been a big change moving over and although there are still a few items on the ‘snagging list’ everyone has pulled together to ensure we are all up and running and our patients have not been compromised in the meantime.

It was a great effort from many departments and so last week we had a hospital bake off to thank the main departments assisting us in the move, namely maintenance, property services and IT.

Our very own vet Alex surpassed all efforts and gained the star baker rosette for her depiction of the hospital busy at work – I’m sure you will all agree from the photo that the award was well deserved!

Thanks again should go to all those who donated to this incredible building and the work that we are able to do here.

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Ethiopia bans donkey skin trade

19 April 2017

Traders have been prevented from targeting the world’s largest donkey population thanks to a move by the Ethiopian government, which will also safeguard the livelihoods of millions of Ethiopia’s poorest people who depend on them.

Ethiopia’s 7.4 million donkeys have increasingly been the focus of attention for businessmen eager to fulfil a growing demand for donkey skins, which are used in a traditional Chinese medical and cosmetic remedy called ejiao. The trade, estimated to be 1.8 million skins globally, is placing at risk donkey populations all round the world but with its huge donkey population, Ethiopia was under particular threat.

The Ethiopian government’s move has been warmly received by The Donkey Sanctuary, which has been campaigning for countries to follow the lead taken by Niger and Burkina Faso to ban the trade and export of donkey skins. Its “Under the Skin” report, launched in January this year, revealed how donkey populations around the world are being decimated by both a legal and illegal trade in donkey skins, with African countries being primary targets. Dozens of reports about cruel and illegal methods of killing donkeys for the trade have been received by The Donkey Sanctuary, revealing that some of the animals have been stolen or poached, poisoned, clubbed to death and even skinned alive.

The Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker said; “Huge numbers of donkeys could be saved from suffering by this welcome decision. It is good news for the people of Ethiopia too. In Ethiopia there is a saying among farmers that ‘Without a donkey, you are the donkey’. Without these incredible animals, the load of carrying goods, fuel, water and everything the community needs is shouldered by people, often women and children. The Ethiopian government’s decisive action will prevent suffering of both animals and people. We congratulate them and urge other nations to follow their lead.”

Dr Bojia Endebu, Country Manager of The Donkey Sanctuary’s operations in Ethiopia welcomed the move; “This news is a big relief to us all. Donkeys are central to Ethiopia’s agriculture and economy and the decision speaks volumes that the government values donkeys in its society; and that they have listened to their people.

“This ban has come about because of public outcry. When the local donkey owning community learned of an abattoir opening in Debre Zeit (Bishoftu) to kill donkeys for their skin; they strongly opposed. When the abattoir tried to reopen in March, they knew they were not being listened to and began to talk – among themselves and to the media saying it is ‘against our culture, against our religion, against our community’. This prompted pressure on the government who listened and acted, closing the abattoir three weeks after it was back up and running. The outcome was praised by media and was a catalyst to the government banning the trade nationwide.”

Chinese businesses have invested heavily in Ethiopia in anticipation of open access to its huge donkey population, funding the construction of at least two large abattoirs which were due to process 200 donkeys every day.

One of these, at Debre Zeit (Bishoftu) near Addis Ababa was closed down by the local authorities on Sunday following protest from local communities. The local authority said that the killing of donkeys was against the “norms and culture of the people”. Another donkey abattoir is being constructed by Chinese investors in Ethiopia’s Oromia region.

News reports suggest that the biggest Chinese ejiao production company Shandong Dong-e invested 80 million Birr (£2,722,192.60) in the facility and may now take the Ethiopian government to court over their decision. There are estimates of 1.8 million donkey skins being traded globally each year, but other estimates suggest demand as being between 4 and 10 million skins annually.

Ethiopia now joins Mali, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Zimbabwe in standing up to the trade. Given they now have the largest population of donkeys in the world, this is a significant step forward for the welfare of millions of donkeys globally.

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Firm friends Ginny and Mini fight for a future together

19 April 2017

We often talk about the importance of a providing an environment that allows donkeys to express their natural behaviour and our visitors enjoy watching the relationships between our donkeys and their friends. Whether they are running through the fields, playing with toys or interacting with each other, we love to see donkeys doing what they do. Not only is it entertaining, providing donkeys with the opportunity to behave freely is highly beneficial to their welfare. As welfare advisers, we often come across situations where donkeys are managed in ways that do not allow them the space, resources, enrichment or company that they require.

Having an awareness of donkey behaviour is vital in our role, as it allows us to help, guide and advise donkey owners towards a more positive management options. When talking about donkey behaviour you will often hear of donkeys needing ‘a friend’. In most cases, donkeys enjoy company of their own kind as they can develop very close friendships with one another, hence the term ‘bonded pair’. Separating a bonded pair can not only cause huge amounts of distress but can also have a devastating impact their physical health by increasing the risk of hyperlipaemia. So when we were called to help Ginny and Mini, a donkey / pony duo, we had to consider what impact their friendship would have on any decisions we made.

When assessing bonding behaviour we follow a step by step process of observation that helps us determine if the pair are bonded, and, to what extent. It was quickly apparent that Ginny was very strongly bonded to Mini.

Sadly, they were both suffering from severely overgrown hooves which required immediate veterinary care. Poor Mini had hooves so long they had spiralled back on themselves towards her leg. We asked a vet to take X-rays of their hooves and provide pain relief before transporting them to our emergency holding base.

It may have been a Bank Holiday but with the help of the RSPCA, compassionate staff, a dedicated vet, and a very skilled farrier, the pair were settled into their new home and the long process of remedial farriery treatment began.

Mini and Ginny will require frequent treatments to gradually correct the irregular angle of the hooves caused by years of neglect. Unfortunately Mini has other health problems, and, X-Rays of her hoof revealed some bone changes which may affect her recovery.

It is never easy witnessing the impact of human failings but it always amazes me how resilient animals can be in the most dire of circumstances. Whilst we cannot predict what the future holds for these firm friends, they are entering into this challenging chapter of their lives as any best friends would, together, side by side.

Enjoy the colour yellow around the Sanctuary

11 April 2017

Spring is definitely in the air and it’s wonderful to see so many visitors walking around the Sanctuary during the Easter holidays.

How many of you have been driving around and been dazzled fields of Oild Seed Rape (OSR) turning bright yellow? If you’ve visited The Donkey Sanctuary, you certainly will have noticed a patchwork of fields across the valley as you drive up Trow Hill towards the Sanctuary.

Oil Seed Rape (OSR) is in full flower and honey bees and other insects will be making a B line to gather the first real source of nectar since last year, having to rely on their honey stores that they brought back home to get them through the winter months and into springtime. As their winter stores are depleted, this is a welcome sight to see for our honey bees who live in harmony alongside our donkeys. The bees will be stocking up on nectar from the OSR to help get them through the next few months until the real nectar flow starts in July.

The girls are also out and about working the dandelions in the gloriously covered paddocks around the Sanctuary. I always thought that bees stuffed pollen into a little basket they had on their back legs. Not so! The pollen sticks to the tiny hairs on the bee’s back legs which she brings back to the hive, pushes off with her front legs into an empty cell in the brood chamber for the workers to pick up and process for their needs inside the brood nest.

As well as feeding themselves, nectar (carbohydrate), pollen (protein) and water are mixed together by the bees to make what’s known as bee bread and fed to the young larvae before their cells are capped to emerge 21 days as young bees.

Here’s an interesting fact… A B line refers to the direction in which a bee flies after gathering nectar. Bees use the sun to navigate their way around and when they are ready to return to the hive they fly in a straight line back. This is why when someone is trying to get to their destination quickly they are said to be making a B line.

Enjoy the colour yellow!

The mules of the High Atlas welcome a helping hand

10 April 2017

Where, previously, only the richest members of these mountain communities could afford a mule, today the mule population has exploded as mules are bought in so that the young men of the villages can find work as muleteers. The mules of the Moroccan High Atlas are therefore very much a product of the mountain tourism industry.

Sadly, the lack of training and equipment is also a product of that industry's historical failure to recognise the lack of knowledge and professional proficiency of those who sought work as muleteers. The last few years, however, have seen some significant and very welcome changes as a growing number of companies recognise that they have a duty of care to the muleteers and mules they employ.

These companies are breaking new ground by requesting training for their muleteering teams and by trying to find ways of equipping them with basic muleteering equipment. This represents a significant commitment in terms of time and money for companies whose training budgets are already somewhat stretched.

I have been able to provide these companies with support in terms of training for muleteers. I have also been able to support travel companies in their work to develop and implement animal welfare policies that allow them to better safeguard mule welfare. As part of this, I have been encouraging companies to help their teams by ensuring they have access to suitable, well-made, long lasting, well-designed and well-fitted equipment. Such equipment is not so easy to find in the High Atlas!

One of the companies I have been working with prototyped a solution a few years ago. Far Frontiers Expeditions were determined to have all the mules working on their schools expeditions in Morocco working in head collars. And so they purchased a stock of Shires Topaz head collars. Their core muleteering team received support from The Donkey Sanctuary and, to their credit, had little trouble learning to work their mules in head collars.

Following that highly successful trial, I spoke to those lovely people at Shires Equestrian and they kindly agreed to make these head collars available at cost to companies who were making a commitment to training and equipping the mules and muleteers who work for them. Since then, several other companies have placed orders for their teams and over a hundred head collars are now on their way to Imlil, a village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, for the 2017 trekking season. This is very welcome news indeed and will go a long way to helping change local practice.

The trekking companies involved are all members of the Expedition Providers' Association. They have committed to eliminating the traditional bit from their operations and are insisting that their teams learn to work loaded mules in head collars. This simple change in equipment promises to transform the relationship between man and mule as handlers learn to communicate in ways made possible by the head collar. This means that relationships founded on pain, compulsion and fear of punishment are being actively discouraged, whilst relations based on trust, compassion, understanding and good communication are being encouraged.

The very concept of good muleteering practice is therefore shifting as more attention and emphasis is placed on the human-animal bond. Healthy relationships are founded on respect, fairness and communication. This requires man let go of the practices and ways of thinking that he relied on previously to impose his will for true communication is two-way, not one-way!

A big thank you is therefore owed to our friends at Shires Equestrian and to the trekking companies who have invested in these head collars and are promoting their use. Your support of this initiative will make a very real difference to the mules involved and will help spread awareness of best muleteering practice.

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