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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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The battle for donkey welfare continues

23 June 2017

When we first found Skip, he was so thin all the bones of his skeleton could be felt through his thick, wet winter coat. He was weak, dull and reluctant to eat.

He and a number of other donkeys lived in an allotment-sized paddock which had become so poached there was nothing but mud under hoof.

The living environment was littered with hazards and rubbish, and the only food available was old, rotting and unappetising.

Skip’s hooves were overgrown and affected by a condition called seedy toe which was likely to be caused by living in an environment without appropriate hard standing and an absence of a dry resting area.

We worked alongside the RSPCA to get Skip the help he needed. Soon after our arrival a vet was called to the field and after making enquiries, the owner was found. After realising the serious nature of his condition, Skip’s owner agreed to relinquish him into our care, along with his friend Jack.

Skip’s condition was so poor that he and Jack were transported straight to the nearest equine hospital where they were given a warm, dry bed, good quality forage and plenty of TLC.

The pair remained at the vets until they were fit enough to make the onward journey to one of our holding bases where they soon became friends with fellow boys Eric and Jasper - whose rescue we told you about previously.

All four boys are improving in health, gaining weight and enjoying the warmer weather. Meanwhile we are continuing to work to improve the living environment of the remaining donkeys.

We are only able to make a difference to the lives of donkeys like Skip and his friends with the help of our supporters who love donkeys as much as we do.

Related articles: Eric and Jasper hitch a lift

Donkey Sanctuary BVA Travel Grant: Fuente de Piedra

23 June 2017

Rachael McKinney is this year’s Donkey Sanctuary British Veterinary Association Overseas Travel Grant vet student. She will be spending three weeks in Europe at two sanctuaries in Spain and one in Portugal learning about The Donkey Sanctuary’s European approach to donkey welfare and the differences in issues that they see compared to the United Kingdom.

Growing up in Ireland, the image conjured when someone says ‘donkey’ is, like the majority of the population, that of a sweet, soggy donkey in a field of luscious grass, who has evidently enjoyed one-too-many carrots in their time. Here, the donkeys I met were lean, with hard feet and no real abscess problem to speak of. It struck me that the more arid conditions of southern Spain are much more suited to donkeys, who have evolved to cope with the weather in Africa. The vets and grooms at The Donkey Sanctuary based in Devon work hard to keep the weight off the donkeys, with strip grazing and regular weigh-ins. Here, the “fat” donkeys (or Team Gordo as they are affectionately known) are, interestingly, predominantly the older donkeys who struggle with eating the normal straw diet and have a more nutritious diet of extra food. This, coupled with an intense love of siestas, makes them a bit “more cuddly” than their younger, straw-based diet counterparts.

Medically, I was fascinated to learn that sarcoids are a very rare condition here. In Devon, I was fortunate enough to see different treatments for sarcoids (cytotoxic cream and laser surgery) which, unfortunately, means that the condition is common enough to facilitate me seeing many procedures, and difficult enough to treat that many different options exist. I was informed that there haven’t been more than one or two cases for the past few years. This is particularly interesting in light of the possible aetiology of sarcoid spread and flies.

The similarities between the two sanctuaries are undeniable. Firstly, both sanctuaries have immensely dedicated grooms. I was amazed in Devon by how well the staff know their donkeys; grooms knew their animals so well that they could tell when one was even mildly flat – cue veterinary investigations into colic and hyperlipaemia. Here is no different; the yard staff know each donkey by name, age, whether they are the extrovert or introvert of the field, and who their friends are. An understanding and love of donkeys is definitely not unique to the equid enthusiasts of the UK. Every day we would clean the paddocks, feed the donkeys, perform daily treatments (while I was there this constituted treating an eye ulcer, flushing an eye socket, washing a prolapsed penis, cleaning an infected vulva and flushing the mouths of the elderly donkeys with dental issues), and giving extra feeds to those who need it. It was a wonderful opportunity to further my husbandry skills and meet some new donkey personalities.

Encountering new donkeys and different conditions has been a brilliant experience for a donkey enthusiast and veterinary student such as myself, and I look forward to more wonderful experiences in Dona Rosa and Portugal.

Related articles: Animal welfare science Dr Dolittle style!El Rocio 2017

Tragedy strikes on Good Friday

14 June 2017

Can you imagine carrying out your normal morning routines going to the donkey stable to find the gate open and no donkeys in sight? Complete panic.

Thoughts running through your head at a 100 miles an hour about where they could be.

When a gate has been left open accidentally then there is a guarantee curious donkeys will find it.

Sadly, Donkey Guardian Claire’s experience was not accidental. Intruders visited the premises overnight and had a good look around the out-buildings. With Claire’s partner having a rather impressive motorbike and other various tools, who knows what they were after, but they also let themselves into the barn area where the donkeys lived.

Fennel and Sorrel, two big donkeys, avoided being handled by complete strangers in the dark, but their curiosity got the better of them when the gate was left open after the intruders had left.

Claire’s layout for the farm meant the donkeys had a choice of directions to take - sadly they chose the wrong one and it led out onto a dark road.

When Claire went to open the barn to let the pair into the paddock, she discovered the gate was open. After a quick look around, Claire ran back to the house and awoke her partner David, they immediately jumped in the car to look for the donkeys in the early morning.

The farm opposite has five donkeys, and the sight of the police car driving up their drive indicated to Claire and David they had potentially located the pair, so they flagged him down and the police led them to where they had found Fennel and Sorrel.

The worst case scenario met Claire and David as they pulled up; the vet was on the way and it was obvious Fennel had been struck by a vehicle and had broken his back leg. There was only one option for Fennel and he was put to sleep in the secure, safe area where the donkeys had been contained.

This left Claire and David in an awful predicament, fortunately the area where the donkeys were contained was secure and Sorrel could be given time to grieve for his pal.

Claire led Sorrel home and he was truly miserable. He had lost all his spirit.

After establishing no further risks to Sorrel, The Donkey Sanctuary pulled out all the stops to find a new friend for Sorrel. Soon enough a special donkey called Flash was found. Flash was duly delivered and while waiting for the ramp to come down off the transport he let out an enormous bray to let his new pal know he had arrived.

Sorrel came running in from the paddock and he has never looked back – Sorrel and Flash are now firm friends. Claire has lots of horse experience, so her endless patience with the donkeys has given them an amazing opportunity to lead a fun-filled life and long-term security.

Claire and David now have chains and padlocks on every gate, sadly a sign of the times to be so vigilant with our valued possessions and those we hold dear to our hearts.

RIP Fennel, you left a huge void in a lot of hearts.

External links: Could you rehome a donkey?

Woman who abandoned 20 animals at livery yard is sentenced in court

14 June 2017

A woman who abandoned 20 animals - including two donkeys - at a livery yard has been handed a five-year ban on keeping animals.

Nicole Williams, of Grace Road, Leicester, appeared at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on Monday 5 June where she pleaded guilty to four offences of failing to meet the needs of her animals.

Williams moved her animals to a 'do-it-yourself' livery yard on 24 October last year - but within a week, it became clear that she was not attending to clean and feed them.

The RSPCA were contacted and promptly attended the yard where they found Williams’ animals - two Labradors, a German Shepherd and an eight-year-old sprocker, five unnamed eight-month-old kittens and two 14-year-old male donkeys called Bert and Eric - living in poor conditions.

RSPCA inspector Kristy Ludlam said: ‘The two donkeys were being kept in a paddock which had no hard-standing ground for them or shelter - two things which donkeys need. They were also being kept in the same paddock as the horses, which we would never recommend as donkeys have different needs to horses.’

The Donkey Sanctuary is committed to supporting donkeys most in need, so when the RSPCA asked if we could care for Bert and Eric while they investigated the case we arranged for them to be housed at our nearest holding base.

Hannah Bryer, senior welfare adviser at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: ‘Bert and Eric have certainly grown to enjoy their home comforts and love having a clean, dry straw bed to escape to when the wind and rain sets in. It is a far cry from their previous living environment which was muddy with no hard standing or shelter to protect them from the elements. Since coming into our care last winter we have seen their personalities flourish.

‘Although they can still be wary of new people and certain situations, they are much friendlier and are at ease in the company of their grooms. Both donkeys are stallions so we can now arrange for them to be castrated and introduced to other donkeys. We are happy to officially welcome Bert and Eric to The Donkey Sanctuary family and thanks to the generosity of our supporters we able to offer them a safe and secure future for the rest of their lives.’

All of the animals have now been recovered and are either in new homes or have been reserved by new owners. As well as the five-year ban on keeping animals, Williams was also ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and told to pay costs of £750 and a £75 victim surcharge.

The exhausted mule of El Rocio

13 June 2017

Every year in June, the Spanish town of El Rocio plays host to a pilgrimage attracting nearly a million people and 20,000 equines.

For the third year running, a team from The Donkey Sanctuary has been on hand to ensure that care of the animals is being upheld.

While many of the injuries witnessed are often due to ill-fitting harnesses, the hard-working animals in the heat of the sun can also succumb to dehydration and exhaustion leading to potentially fatal situations.

When the team was alerted to a collapsed mule in a murky swamp, they were faced with one such dire situation.

Watch her story unfold

The mule had been tied to a tree and had collapsed through exhaustion. She was thought to be between 24 and 28 years old.

The team worked for four hours to get the mule more comfortable, and made several attempts to help her to her feet.

In spite of their efforts, her condition continued to deteriorate and it became clear that she was critically ill.

The difficult decision was made to put her to sleep.

It is only thanks to your support that the team was there to make her final hours more comfortable.

The mule's owner and the person who rented her both received sentences of one year and four months in prison as well as a three-year ban of working with animals for the person who rented the mule to work.

Father and son appear in court over donkey neglect

13 June 2017

A father and son who run a Liverpool-based donkey business have been sentenced in court after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to five of their donkeys.

Eric Wheeler (DOB 26/2/1933), of Dalemeadow Road, Liverpool appeared before Liverpool Magistrates' Court on Monday, 5 June and pleaded guilty to five offences of causing unnecessary suffering.

Ronald Wheeler (DOB 06/10/1976), of Thomas Lane, Liverpool, also pleaded guilty on Monday to five offences of causing unnecessary suffering, and three offences of failing to meet the needs of the donkeys due to overgrown hooves.

A district judge at Liverpool Magistrates Court sentenced Eric to a two-month community order and Ronald to a three-month community order. They were also ordered to pay costs of £800.

The court heard that the five donkeys - called Pepper, Toby, Domino, Lily and No Name - were used in public events such as fairs, nativity plays and parties.

RSPCA inspectors Louise Showering and Claire Fisher, along with welfare officers from The Donkey Sanctuary, visited the donkeys on 19 February 2016 after concerns were raised by a member of the public.

Hannah Bryer, senior welfare adviser for The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "Five donkeys came into our care last year following an investigation led by the RSPCA. They were extremely thin, with very little fat or muscle coverage of their spine, ribs and hip bones. They also had overgrown hooves.

"The vet found that all five donkeys had been caused to suffer unnecessarily as their owners had failed to take steps to investigate or address their poor condition. All five donkeys have since improved in our care after being provided with a suitable diet and any necessary veterinary and farrier care.’

"Keeping donkeys can be a very rewarding experience but one which should only be undertaken with the knowledge and commitment to care for them properly. As commercial operators, the defendants held a position of trust, not only to the donkeys in their care, but also to members of the public who used their services.

"We hope these convictions serve as a reminder to all that the welfare of donkeys used for commercial purposes is as equally important as those kept privately as companion animals. The Donkey Sanctuary continues to provide advice on donkey care and welfare, in addition to guidelines for working donkeys, all of which can be found on our website or by contacting the welfare department."

Inspector Fisher added: “These five donkeys were clearly underweight which had led to them suffering unnecessarily, as well as having overgrown hooves which would have made walking uncomfortable. One of the donkeys, Lily, was also suffering from rain scald - a skin disease seen in equines - which was clearly causing her discomfort.

“Eric and Ronald Wheeler run a donkey business and should have known that five of their donkeys required veterinary treatment. The suffering that these donkeys endured could have been so easily avoided if they had been cared for properly. Anyone who owns an animal, no matter how many, has a legal responsibility to care for that animal and to ensure that they do not suffer unnecessarily.”

The judge addressed the issues of disqualification by saying that since these donkeys were removed in January 2016 the defendants have taken steps to improve the welfare of the remaining donkeys and although he was concerned about the apparent resistance to advice given by the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary he did not feel disqualification was appropriate in the circumstances.

El Rocio 2017

8 June 2017

This month The Donkey Sanctuary has attended Spain’s biggest pilgrimage festival, El Rocío, for a third consecutive year to ensure the welfare of the mules and donkeys involved in the event were protected.

The El Rocío pilgrimage is the most famous in the region, attracting nearly a million people and 20,000 equines from across the country. The Sanctuary’s attendance is crucial due to the huge amount of animals attending for private use or for rental.

The majority of the injuries seen each year are caused by ill-fitting harnesses and by a traditional noseband called a serreta.

Dehydration and exhaustion are also illnesses that can be fatal in situations like this which is why expert care is provided around the clock.

Teamwork at Appleby Horse Fair

8 June 2017

Welfare advisers from The Donkey Sanctuary are joining officers from the RSPCA in their annual visit to Appleby Horse Fair (8-14 June).

The event represents the RSPCA's biggest deployment of staff and the biggest multi-agency event of the year, with six other horse organisations also involved.

The traveller fair starts in the Cumbrian town on General Election Day and finishes on Wednesday.

This year, 33 RSPCA officers will be attending during peak times including specialist equine officers from across England and Wales.

RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “Every year we learn lessons to take into the next. Last year the number of horses being worked to exhaustion was a big issue. Working an equine repeatedly over several days, even though it may appear to have recovered, has an accumulative effect. We often see different people with the same animal who may not be aware of how much work it has done that day or on previous days at the fair.

“We’ll be using exhaustion tests on horses we’re concerned about, which were developed to be used on horses ridden in endurance events. A man from Essex was jailed after being found to be working an exhausted horse at last year’s fair. I’m urging people to be vigilant and report anything that concerns them. We often get calls after the fair but very few during. Fair-goers can approach our officers - or those from the other horse charities attending - on the ground or they can call us on 0300 1234 999.”

There will be seven people attending from Blue Cross, four staff from Bransby Horses, a vet and two donkey welfare advisers from The Donkey Sanctuary, three vets, two senior field officers and an education and campaigns manager from Redwings Horse Sanctuary and four field officers and one welfare support officer from World Horse Welfare.

As always, there will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it. The vet station will be staffed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (9-11 June) between 10am-4pm.

Education staff and volunteers from all five of the animal welfare charities - all members of the National Equine Welfare Council - along with The British Horse Society - will also be manning an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where Gypsies and travellers can share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care.

Now in its seventh year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring.

The RSPCA will be tweeting from the event - follow @RSPCA_Frontline and @DonkeySanctuary for updates.

Sanctuary condemns 'horrendously inhumane' act as live donkey is fed to tigers at Chinese zoo

6 June 2017

This article contains content that some readers may find upsetting

The Donkey Sanctuary has learned of a report in the Daily Mail exposing footage of a live donkey being fed to tigers at the Yancheng Safari Park, a zoo in eastern China.

The charity calls the act "horrendously inhumane" and condemns it as a severe act of animal cruelty.

Horrendously inhumane

Watching the heart-breaking video, Kevin Brown, the charity’s assistant director of programmes is dismayed, putting his head in his hands: "You [the donkey] poor helpless animal…. how terrifying to have been thrown into the water and then slowly maimed by the tigers that are clearly captive animals and don’t know how to kill.

"Apparently the reports say the donkey’s terrifying ordeal lasted almost half an hour - what an utterly pointless exercise and a horrendously inhumane act."

Alex Thiemann, veterinary surgeon at the Sanctuary’s hospital said the footage made her feel physically sick. "The welfare of the donkey has been utterly ignored," she said. "The actions of these individuals could only have had one possible outcome – the drawn-out and excruciatingly painful death of a frightened animal. And yet they seem to enjoy what they are doing. What they have done is inexcusable, and the Park authorities need to ensure it never happens again."

Social media outrage

In the appalling video posted on social media, the terrified donkey can be seen clinging on for dear life as a group of workers push the animal off a ramp and into the moat of the tiger enclosure.

According to South China Morning Post, footage of the incident has caused outrage, with one witness writing "The donkey screamed miserably when it was pushed down. What has a donkey to do with humans’ problems?”

Standing up for donkeys

Through its membership of the Asia for Animals Coalition, The Donkey Sanctuary is now writing to Yancheng Safari Park to implore an immediate ban of feeding live donkeys to predator species – a practice the charity understands is not exclusively confined to this zoo.

The Donkey Sanctuary champions donkeys and their welfare, and aims for a world where donkeys live free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.

Open letter to China

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling on people to add their names to an open letter condemning this severe act of animal cruelty and is seeking urgent clarity on China's policy on the feeding of live animals to captive predators.

Read and sign today

Baker boys bow out

5 June 2017

By Alice Crawford, groom

Where do I start?! The Baker boys, Timothy and Walter, what a cheeky pair.

As soon as I started working at the Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre four years ago, the boys were always in my face, demanding attention, and wanting to be involved with everything going on.

So when Kat told me how Walter used to be very nervous when he first arrived, I couldn’t believe it. He is such a chilled out chap, oozing confidence, and knows exactly what he does and doesn’t want. This meant it was actually his decision to retire – he decided he ought to be spending his days mooching around the yard, and of course we couldn’t say no.

Walter has helped so many children over the years and deserves nothing more than a long and happy retirement.

Walter’s confidence can sometimes come across as being rather demanding. He is often the only donkey who won’t leave the yard when we want to start mucking out and it can be quite hard to coax him off the yard to join the others.

However, with a quiet whisper in his ear, and a promise of a ginger biscuit, he will happily march off and join Timothy and the rest of the herd waiting on the sand.

Timothy, on the other hand, is the joker of the group. He is always up to mischief and causing havoc on the yard. If he’s not stealing your broom, he’s knocking over the wheelbarrow or pushing the straw out of the feeder onto the floor. He knows when the camera is around too as he will often show off and smile, lifting his top lip.

Some of the donkeys at Cottage Barn end up with nicknames and Timothy seems to have quite a collection – we have been known to call him Tim, Timmy, Timotei, Timoney Cricket, Timbo, and - most popularly - Mothy. One day, the T and I on his collar were covered up, so it read, ‘mothy’ and since then the name has stuck.

Timothy, unlike Walter, has continued to interact with the children who visit the centre and has not been so keen to retire. He is an absolute star; he is ever so patient and has a heart of gold. Timothy is a very important and reliable member of the Donkey Assisted Therapy team and will be sorely missed, but equally is ever so deserving of some downtime in the paddock now, which I’m sure he will thoroughly enjoy.

When the boys are on the yard they are rarely seen apart, and are often planning on how to get into the feed store. All the doors at Cottage have special ‘donkey-proof’ bolts, as without them there is no doubt that Timothy would be able to unlock the door and raid the feed shed.

As soon as they hear the bolt open, the Baker boys are quick to make their way over, just in case they can squeeze through and get to the feed bins. And if you are not fast enough, Walter will sneak through and tip the bins over and Timothy will join him to feast on the chaff.

I will certainly miss the Baker boys. They are two very big characters who will leave a rather large hole at Cottage Barn – the yard will certainly be a lot quieter without them. I’m sure they will settle into their new shelter quickly and it won’t be long before they are getting up to just as much mischief. Have fun boys.

'Donkeys are my payment'

5 June 2017

To mark the end of Volunteers' Week 2017 we caught up with one of our dedicated volunteers who discovered that donkeys were the missing piece of her life.

Volunteers play a vital role at The Donkey Sanctuary in a variety of roles and we have been paying tribute to them this week.

When volunteer Ross Hill was a toddler, she wandered off during a family visit to an animal sanctuary and was later discovered sitting in a paddock with a donkey foal - it was the start of something special...

Ross said: "I have always had a bit of a soft spot for equines. That image of me has sort of followed me and stuck with me through my life over the last 50 years or so, but I never really knew the story behind it.

"It wasn’t until it came up in conversation with my sister who said ‘we lost you at this Sanctuary, and when we found you, there you were deep in conversation with a donkey’, and I thought ‘hang on a minute, if that’s how it happened then there was always something missing in all my life', and I always wondered what it was – it was donkeys.

"Why do I volunteer? It’s the ability to give back. Over the last however many years we have watched Dr Svendsen [The Donkey Sanctuary founder] do all her work and we have donated and followed them. But in recent years I have really wanted to actively give something back to the Sanctuary.

"If I can free up a full-time member of staff’s time to do another - perhaps more important - job and I can do some of the work then that is fine by me.

"I love being around the donkeys, I love interacting with them and I love the way they are so loving and calming and trusting – and forgiving! I hate the way we have mis-treated the donkeys over the millennia, and if I can groom or stroke or cuddle a donkey for half an hour, this is my small way of saying sorry about what we have done. It lets me do my little bit.

"I do my hours of voluntary work at the Sanctuary and then I go off and find some donkeys to stroke and to play with. I can tell them my deepest darkest secrets; that is actually my payment, I ask for nothing more than the opportunity to spend time with the donkeys."

Find out more about volunteering

b-LOOM-ing marvellous!

2 June 2017

The six donkey assisted therapy centres across the UK facilitate hundreds of mutually enriching interaction sessions between donkeys and vulnerable children and adults. One particularly touching story is that of Karandeep Bahra and his donkey friends at our centre in Birmingham.

Karandeep, a young adult with additional needs, has been involved in these sessions at Birmingham since March 2017. Young adults with physical, social and behavioural difficulties gain confidence, improved life skills and a sense of achievement from these sessions. And the donkeys – many of whom have been rescued from a life of neglect, mistreatment or abandonment – gain a new and rewarding life engaging with lots of people. Over the months Karandeep has had the chance to interact with the 18 resident donkeys situated in the picturesque woodland of Sutton Park. His sessions have built his confidence around animals, other people as well as giving him the opportunity to reflect on and communicate his own feelings.

In order to give something back to the donkeys, that have become his friends, Karandeep decided to raise money for The Donkey Sanctuary. He used loom bands to create colourful bracelets and sold them to his neighbours, friends and family – raising over £50 for the charity. We are so pleased to see the donkeys inspiring young adults to take steps to raise awareness and compassion for these wonderful creatures.

When asked why he comes to The Donkey Sanctuary, Karandeep said: "Because I like animals and enjoy having fun with the donkeys. It makes me feel happy and I like working with the staff who make me feel comfortable". Karandeep even made loom bracelets for the staff who led the interaction sessions – Andy and Amber wear their loom bands with pride (although not around the donkeys who always want to try to nibble them)!

Staff member Andy has seen a fantastic improvement in Karandeep’s confidence and empathy towards the donkeys. "When Karandeep first started the sessions he was nervous and not very communicative. Over the weeks I have watched him choose which donkeys he would like to work with, identify donkey behaviours and emotions and recall facts about his new friends. It has been very rewarding to see this progression culminate in such a generous gesture as the funds he has decided to raise by himself".

When asked about his fund raising activities, Karandeep said: "I made loom bracelets to sell because I wanted to help the donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary – especially Oscar, who is my favourite donkey because I really enjoy it when he comes over to me".

As a special treat for such a generous gesture, and because Karandeep enjoys learning about donkey enrichment, he helped scatter grated carrots on to the fields for his friends to eat. We are so lucky to have clients like Karandeep who think donkeys are b-LOOM-ing marvellous!

Timothy and Walter - sharing happy memories

1 June 2017

When I first started in my role as manager of the Sidmouth Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre, there were two donkeys who had originally come from a big group in the New Forest and had only been living with the therapy team for a short while, having been specially selected from one of the Donkey Sanctuary farms due to their particularly friendly and sociable natures.

This meant that their potential had been spotted very early on as they had some of the ideal attributes that we look for when choosing donkeys to put forward for a role involving a great deal of human contact.

Meeting Timothy and Walter

Timothy and Walter were half- brothers but their looks and personalities couldn’t have been more different. When I first went to meet the donkeys in the yard, a very handsome grey donkey with a distinct black stripe on his back and a black muzzle came straight over to introduce himself and was soon trying to nuzzle in my pockets to see if I was worth talking to. He then started picking up one of the brooms in his teeth and began helping one of his grooms sweep the yard.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see I was being watched by a fluffy skewbald donkey, who clearly was interested in what was happening but had a very wary look in his eye and didn’t have the confidence to come over straight away. He let me approach him and then relaxed as I gave his neck a nice scratch and he realised there was nothing to worry about.

Walter the teacher

It is amazing knowing how nervous Walter was at that time, how far he has come with the help of some patient and ongoing training and how many lives he has helped enhance during his time engaging with the children and adults who visited the Centre. Walter has always been particularly good with more anxious, nervous children and becoming their teacher, in a way that no-one could to do quite so well. He seems to know just when they need a little extra encouragement or reassurance and soon has them interacting with confidence. I guess this maybe comes from his own experience!

That morning was my first introduction to the notorious ‘Baker brothers’ and when they are not busy enhancing lives, they often find ways to keep themselves occupied and partake in a bit of mischief making. The occasion when Timothy, who is extremely intelligent, mastered how to open (and close!) the lock on the storeroom door and shut one of his grooms in the shed, will always remain in our minds. Luckily a helpful passer- by heard someone knocking on the door and soon alerted us to let her out.

Grooming Timothy

Timothy loves being the centre of attention and has a particular determination to be groomed as much as possible. When he is not picking up the grooming kits in his teeth and trying to help brush himself, he waits until he has been made spotlessly clean and then finds the nearest patch of mud or sand and has a good roll in order for the whole grooming process to begin again. This has even been known to happen when he is almost ready for his first rider and the grooms then frantically have to dust him off and start again. No wonder he is always gleaming!

Forever friends

As well as the bonds they have clearly formed with people, you hear of donkeys forming very close bonds with each other and I have never seen donkeys so closely bonded as Timothy and Walter. Whilst still very much having their own distinct personalities, you will very rarely see one without the other following closely in his footsteps. This does have its advantages, as we have quite a lot of coloured donkeys within our group and when adoption supporters ask which one is Walter, we can always say that lovely white donkey with brown spots on, stood next to a grey one with a black nose!

Timothy and Walter will leave us with many very fond memories from their time as part of our team and we couldn’t think of a better place for them both to enjoy a long and happy retirement as in the heart of the Sanctuary where they can continue to receive the interaction and attention that they so thrive on and deserve.

Lauriel Woodley, Centre Manager, Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre, Sidmouth

New donkey hospital opens - thanks to all of you

1 June 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary's brand new hospital is now open, providing first class care for donkeys and mules.

Since the charity was founded in 1969, The Donkey Sanctuary has delivered help to donkeys and mules across the globe, and has provided lifelong care to thousands in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

The organisation’s founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen devoted her life to donkeys, opening the original Donkey Hospital in 1982 to help improve the quality of care. At the time, the charity provided sanctuary to 1,500 donkeys, which has now grown to 6,900 donkeys across the UK and Europe.

The hospital served us well for 35 years, but became outdated. We couldn’t facilitate surgery on large donkey breeds or bigger mules, and were limited in the number of donkeys we could treat at any one time; which was a problem as the number of animals in our care rose year on year.

Last year, we appealed for your help to build a new, state-of-the-art facility to treat larger numbers of sick and injured animals, and to provide the best treatment possible.

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who made a donation to our Hospital Appeal. With your support, you have helped us to build this new facility. The drugs cupboards are stocked, the machines in use, the stables occupied, and the veterinary staff are busy treating patients.

"It’s amazing," says Jo Goliszek, veterinary surgeon. "The operating theatre is a sterile environment with state-of-the-art facilities so we can give really good, high-quality care to the donkeys that come to us."

Stuart Reid, chair of trustee directors, says: "The Donkey Sanctuary is already a global centre of excellence for specialist, quality care and treatment. We are pioneers and experts in our field, carrying out innovative and cutting-edge treatments. As we treat even more donkeys in need, we can now push the boundaries even further. And thanks to you, we will."

Chief executive Mike Baker adds: "With your help, we’ve created something lasting, important and special. Not just a fantastic new building. Not only bricks and mortar. Together, we’ve built a place where sick animals will be cured, and suffering animals will be freed from pain."

Tanzania rejects skin trade by closing all donkey slaughterhouses

1 June 2017

Tanzania is the latest country to help halt the trade in donkey skins for traditional Chinese medicine by announcing it will close down all of its donkey slaughterhouses from July 2017.

The decision by the country’s government department, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, has been welcomed by The Donkey Sanctuary, the international charity currently campaigning for an immediate halt to the trading of donkey skins to produce the traditional Chinese product called ejiao.

Media reports have quoted Charles Tizeba, Tanzania’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, as saying that the move is part of the government’s efforts to "save the animals from extinction", adding that in recent years the pace at which donkeys have been slaughtered is "unsustainable".

The minister said that the government’s goal is to see a workforce of available donkeys that reaches and benefits 572,357 rural dwellers, especially women. He advised people currently involved in donkey slaughter to "find other businesses to do or engage in the cattle or goat meat trade".

Tanzania has been a key source country for donkey skins, which have fed the huge demand for ejiao. As many as 1.8 million donkeys were either sourced legally or stolen and slaughtered for their skins worldwide last year, causing mass-scale suffering to donkeys and leaving donkey-reliant communities at risk of being impoverished and losing their independence.

The illegal trade has affected Tanzania badly, with reports of villages waking to find donkeys have been stolen, killed and stripped of their skins overnight. These cases have led to The Donkey Sanctuary and its Tanzanian partners including Tanzania Animal Welfare Society (TAWESO), to work collaboratively with the Tanzanian government, and help influence the decision to close the slaughterhouses.

Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary says: "I’m delighted that the Tanzanian government is standing up for its donkeys and has recognised both the seriousness of the threat posed by this trade, and the social, cultural and economic value that donkeys have."

Dr. Thomas W. Kahema, executive director at TAWESO says: "It is an honour to have worked with the team so closely and we are grateful to the Ministry for listening to us and taking the time to read the ‘Under the Skin’ report which reveals the shocking extent of the trade – our intensive work to raise awareness of the issues has worked! Now, we need to continue the battle against the black market trade, which remains a significant threat to our donkey populations."

The announcement of slaughterhouse closures in Tanzania is a huge step towards stopping donkeys falling victim to the unsustainable trade – but the threat to animals and their owners remains while poachers continue to steal donkeys in the middle of the night, and slaughter them inhumanely. It is hoped that the closure of the abattoirs will lead to the ban of exporting donkey skins which will make the illegal trade more difficult.

The Donkey Sanctuary is working with partners across the world to monitor and lobby against the skin trade due to both its unsustainability and animal welfare implications. Read more about the charity's Under the Skin report and what The Donkey Sanctuary is doing to combat the trade alongside its partners worldwide.

Tanzania rejects skin trade by closing all donkey slaughterhouses

30 May 2017

Tanzania is the latest country to help halt the trade in donkey skins for traditional Chinese medicine by announcing it will close down all of its donkey slaughterhouses from July 2017.

The decision by the country’s government department, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, has been welcomed by The Donkey Sanctuary, the international charity currently campaigning for an immediate halt to the trading of donkey skins to produce the traditional Chinese product called ejiao.

Media reports have quoted Charles Tizeba, Tanzania’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, as saying that the move is part of the government’s efforts to "save the animals from extinction", adding that in recent years the pace at which donkeys have been slaughtered is unsustainable.

The minister said that the government’s goal is to see a workforce of available donkeys that reaches and benefits 572,357 rural dwellers, especially women. He advised people currently involved in donkey slaughter to ‘find other businesses to do or engage in the cattle or goat meat trade.’

Tanzania has been a key source country for donkey skins, which have fed the huge demand for ejiao. As many as 1.8 million donkeys were either sourced legally or stolen and slaughtered for their skins worldwide last year, causing mass-scale suffering to donkeys and leaving donkey-reliant communities at risk of being impoverished and losing their independence.

The illegal trade has affected Tanzania badly, with reports of villages waking to find donkeys have been stolen, killed and stripped of their skins overnight. These cases have led to The Donkey Sanctuary and its Tanzanian partners including Tanzania Animal Welfare Society (TAWESO), to work collaboratively with the Tanzanian government, and help influence the decision to close the slaughterhouses.

Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary says: "I’m delighted that the Tanzanian government is standing up for its donkeys and has recognised both the seriousness of the threat posed by this trade, and the social, cultural and economic value that donkeys have".

Dr.Thomas W.Kahema, executive director at TAWESO says: "It is an honour to have worked with the team so closely and we are grateful to the Ministry for listening to us and taking the time to read the "Under the Skin’ report which reveals the shocking extent of the trade – our intensive work to raise awareness of the issues has worked! Now, we need to continue the battle against the black market trade, which remains a significant threat to our donkey populations."

The announcement of slaughterhouse closures in Tanzania is a huge step towards stopping donkeys falling victim to the unsustainable trade – but the threat to animals and their owners remains while poachers continue to steal donkeys in the middle of the night, and slaughter them inhumanely. It is hoped that the closure of the abattoirs will lead to the ban of exporting donkey skins which will make the illegal trade more difficult.

The Donkey Sanctuary is working with partners across the world to monitor and lobby against the skin trade due to both its unsustainability and animal welfare implications.

Read The Donkey Sanctuary's Under the Skin report to find out what the charity is doing to combat the trade alongside its partners worldwide.

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