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International animal welfare charity, based in the UK, working to protect and care for donkeys and mules.
Updated: 5 min 47 sec ago

Donkeys and wellbeing

6 hours 38 min ago

Volunteer Ross Hill gives a personal account of how donkeys improve human health and happiness, and unveils her ‘Donkey Five Ways to Wellbeing’.

When I was asked to write a blog for The Donkey Sanctuary about volunteering I had lots of ideas and false starts – like all good writers.

While I was struggling with the volunteering blog I was asked to put something together on the impact of spending time with donkeys on human wellbeing, particularly as the subject of wellbeing is a specialism of my day job.

Anyway, today I was driving the familiar route down the M5 to Sidmouth for my first stint of volunteering of the new year when I had a brainwave. Why not combine the two? I have been working in wellbeing for the past five years and have been promoting Five Ways to Wellbeing in my presentations to hundreds of staff over the years – in fact my volunteering forms part of my Five Ways and I am a proud promoter of The Donkey Sanctuary.

The concept of wellbeing comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well. Feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement are characteristic of someone who has a positive experience of their life. Equally important for wellbeing is our functioning in the world. Experiencing positive relationships, having some control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of wellbeing. When considering these elements, the New Economics Foundation created The Five Ways to Wellbeing.

So here are my Donkey Five Ways to Wellbeing!


Whether you are a visitor, volunteer or member of staff, connecting is the lifeblood of the sanctuary. While humans can and do treat donkeys atrociously, on the whole donkeys like humans and they love interacting with us, whether it is them teasing us or us providing our favourite donkeys with grooming and petting services. As a volunteer I deal with the public a lot and I am struck by how many visitors say how restful, peaceful or therapeutic they view their connection with the donkeys.

Keep learning

Whether picking up random snippets of knowledge (eg how long a donkey lives, what donkeys eat, where donkeys come from etc) or attending formal training in donkey care and behaviour, one is constantly learning new things with donkeys. To quote a colleague, ‘we can never know everything and life is a learning journey’, and here at the sanctuary the donkeys are our tutors. They teach us patience, love, peace and how to be mindful – which brings me onto…

Take Notice

Whether watching the donkeys in the field or being presented with a bum to scratch, donkeys are experts in encouraging us to practice mindfulness. The ability to shut out the hubbub of the modern world and concentrate on one thing is a skill we all have to relearn. When we are around donkeys, whether staff or public, we somehow find it easier to switch off the world and just concentrate on the big brown eyes, the velvety muzzle or the patiently waiting bum. Even when no donkey presents itself for attention, leaning on a fence watching them snoozing, enjoying a roll or playing ‘capture the collar’ are mindful activities, and we indulge ourselves in their relaxing activities.


Without donations the sanctuary wouldn’t survive, but it’s not just money we talk about when referring to giving. I am often asked why I volunteer and the answer is always complicated. I started, like many, as an adopter. Then I progressed to a visitor and began making regular treks down the M5. I made a point of learning as much as possible about the sanctuary and its founder, Dr Svendsen, and the more I learned about the local and international work the more I wanted to help and be a more productive member of the organization. So I registered as a volunteer and this is my little bit of giving. As visitors, not only do you give money, whether as donations or in the shop or restaurant, but you give that rare commodity – love. The donkeys benefit from your attention, the stroking and scratching, and in their own equine way they give so much back to us humans.

Being Active

Well, that’s a given. At Slade House Farm in Sidmouth alone there are about 45 acres of fields, paddocks, barns and formal walking routes. Whether we are pushing Nana in her wheelchair, roaming about alone or watching the kids run about, we are all enjoying exercise and fresh air without realising it. You can drift from Shelter 1 (visiting Walter, Timothy, Hannah and Cocoa) through 2, 3 and 4 (saying hello to Zena and Ashley on the way), then 5 and 6 where Millie the Mule hangs out, and then you notice you have been walking for maybe an hour; just strolling along pausing to talk to the donkeys as you go. For a roaming ‘troubleshooter’ volunteer, which is my remit, I can cover five or ten miles easily in a day, talking to the public, showing them around and walking the site.

So, weighing up the time I have spent at The Donkey Sanctuary – from doing the visitor thing to laying out candles for Candlelight; from guiding visitors to their adoption donkeys (or the restaurant, or the toilets!) to helping at events – I think I, like all of you, have been experiencing the Donkey Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Banned for life - donkey owner admits neglect

9 hours 24 min ago

A man from Derbyshire has been disqualified from keeping donkeys for life after pleading guilty to allowing two donkeys to suffer.

The pair of donkeys named Jessica and Jasmine were discovered by the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary in June last year, with hooves so overgrown they were unable to walk.

Guilty plea

At Derby Magistrates Court last week (15 February), Mark Barber (DOB 8.6.1977) admitted to failing to seek vital farriery treatment for his donkeys.

Farmer Mark Barber, of Blore, Ashbourne pleaded guilty to the charges of causing unnecessary suffering to the two donkeys under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. He also admitted failing to seek treatment for the donkeys’ poor and overgrown hooves for more than two months between April 2017 and June 2017, leaving them in constant pain and unable to walk.

RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin, who investigated the case brought by the RSPCA, said: “These two beautiful donkeys were left to suffer because Mr Barber refused to call a vet or farrier out.

Shocking sight

“After a concerned member of the public called us about the state of two donkeys they’d seen on the Barbers' farm, I called Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, to help and when we arrived we were shocked at what we saw.

"Both donkeys, Jessica and Jasmine, were out in a field and their hooves were so long we could barely coax them to take a few steps - they were in agony.

“Mr Barber had left Jessica and Jasmine without any farriery or veterinary care for a really long time, even though it was clear that they were suffering.

“Thankfully, after we called a vet who certified their suffering immediately, Mr Barber signed the donkeys into our care and after carefully loading them into the horsebox, they were taken straight to The Donkey Sanctuary to receive the expert care they so desperately needed.”

Mark Barber received a fine of £383 and was ordered to pay costs of £500, along with a victim surcharge of £38 and was disqualified from keeping donkeys for life.

A difficult decision

Both donkeys were taken to The Donkey Sanctuary in Buxton for emergency care and treatment. One of the donkeys, Jessica, was also found to have severe sarcoids on her legs and belly. Sarcoids are a skin tumour and if caught early can be treated, but sadly poor Jessica’s condition was so severe, even a veterinary specialist who is experienced in the condition advised that she would not recover, and so the difficult decision was made to put her to sleep.

Happily, Jasmine has made a full recovery and remains a resident at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Paccombe Farm in Devon.

Collaboration and recovery

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Cases like this are incredibly sad as they can be so easily avoided.

“Happily, with the support of vets, farriers and farm staff, Jasmine has made a full recovery and is now living in the company of other donkeys at one of our sanctuaries.

“Sadly, we were unable to save Jessica due to the extensive and inoperable nature of her tumours which were affecting her quality of life.

“We are grateful for the combined efforts of the RSPCA, Derbyshire Police and all involved in investigating this case. The disqualification order imposed by the court serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future, but of course the most important outcome of all is that Jasmine is now fit and well, with a safe and secure future ahead of her.”

Sanctuary takes in five donkeys when they needed it most

15 February 2018

Ensuring the health and happiness of every donkey in the UK doesn’t just mean being there for donkeys when their welfare is compromised, but being there in support of owners - especially when tragedy strikes.

The Donkey Sanctuary recently took five donkeys into its care from their home in South Wales, in the hope that one day we will find them another loving forever home.

There to help

When family illness meant the donkeys’ owner could no longer give them all the care and attention they needed, he knew he could turn to The Donkey Sanctuary for help.

Tamlin Watson, our welfare adviser, visited Benty, Flossie, Toby, Jake and Jasper along with a vet. A sixth donkey, Granny, who was over 20 years old, was x-rayed. This showed up that she had a significantly twisted pedal bone - an essential part of a donkey’s hoof. She was very uncomfortable on hard ground and found it painful to walk.

Granny was prescribed pain relief in the short term, but it became clear that the difficult decision to put her to sleep would need to be taken.

A difficult decision

Tamlin said: “It would not have been fair or welfare-friendly to move Granny away from somewhere familiar all the way down to Devon, the journey would have been painful for her and this stress would have made for a very miserable donkey - it was better for all for her to be put to sleep peacefully amongst all of her friends in familiar surroundings.”

We worked with the owner to get Granny euthanised well before the rest of the herd was moved, as one of the herd, Toby, was very bonded to her.

A special bond

Donkeys form very strong bonds but they are susceptible to a stress-related illness called hyperlipaemia; it is potentially fatal and can be triggered when a donkey loses its best friend, so we needed to take extra care.

“Hyperlipaemia has a three-week high risk period,” said Tamlin. “We wanted to ensure Toby was out of this risk period before moving them.”

Benty and friends

Each of the donkeys has their own personality and their own story to tell. Jake had a sarcoid removed one year ago and has remained a little wary ever since. Benty - so named because of her bent ear - is particularly very sweet and the rest of the herd are very friendly and easy to handle.

Our founder, Dr Svendsen, said that “for as long as donkeys need my help, they shall have it” - a sentiment which is continued throughout the organisation today.

Adorable donkeys get a roof over their heads

15 February 2018

A loveable pair of donkeys called Coco and Will are two of the newest arrivals to The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth after the charity stepped in to help a struggling owner who couldn’t put a roof over their heads.

When our welfare team received an enquiry to assist with a donkey castration, an initial check was carried out to make sure the donkey was being kept in the right environment which was meeting all of his health and happiness needs.

No shelter

Will and his friend Coco had plenty of room to roam, graze and exercise, but according to their owner, they weren’t keen on using their shelter. Upon further inspection, it was clear to see why; the ‘shelter’ had no roof, there was no bedding, and the floor was thick with sticky mud.

The owner had assumed that the donkeys could be managed in with her horses, and when it became clear that wasn’t the case, she moved the donkey friends to a field of their own, unaware of how much donkeys rely on access to shelter from the elements, as well as an area of hardstanding to give their hooves some respite from the sodden paddock.

Sanctuary support

Will has a heart murmur, meaning any castration operation was not going to be totally straightforward. He needed clinical care.

With family commitments piling up, it became apparent to the owner that she wasn’t in a position to put the situation right and give the donkeys the care they needed. She made the difficult decision for any loving owner to sign over the donkeys over to The Donkey Sanctuary.

Full of character

Tamlin Watson, donkey welfare adviser, said: “Coco and Will are a lovely pair of donkeys. Coco is slightly nervous of sudden movements but is very sweet-natured. Will is a dear little chap, not stallion-like at all; he seems to be the carthorse of the donkey world, a really cuddly, friendly chap that just ambles around. When we arrived at their field Coco flew down to meet us while Will was oblivious to our arrival for some time!”

Donkeys are different

A recent study carried out by The Donkey Sanctuary shows that donkeys are less able than horses to adapt to colder, wetter climates, meaning they need additional protection.

For any prospective or current donkey owners, we have a wealth of helpful guidance on owning donkeys which is available in the health and care section of the website.

Four foal friends' brighter future

15 February 2018

Four adorable but unwanted donkey foals have landed on their hooves in their new home at The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.

Due to a sudden change in circumstances these fluffy friends’ future looked uncertain.

Fortunately, the owner contacted us and now they will be safe and secure for the rest of their lives.

Tests and checks

Happiness, Geoffrey, Nincompoop and Bill arrived last week (February 7) and will remain in an isolated part of the sanctuary as they undergo tests and treatments to prepare them for life on the farm.

The Donkey Sanctuary has a ‘no breeding’ policy, but when a mare arrives into our care in foal, or if a group like this have nowhere else to turn, then we will make sure they get all the love and care they need.

Forever home

The young donkeys are not used to being handled, but our expert farm staff will work with them, and one day we hope to find them a loving forever home through our rehoming scheme.

As with all donkeys who come into our care, the baby donkeys will go through a routine which includes medical tests for parasites and other diseases.

Thanks to you

They will also be visited by a farrier, receive any vaccinations or blood tests that are needed, and will be given a settling in period on their own before being introduced to a suitable herd.

Thanks to our supporters, we are able to offer these unwanted friends a brighter future.

Blackie Star

1 February 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary has a long history with the Peropalo festival in Spain. Dr Svensden herself, attended the event in 1987 and was horrified by what she witnessed. With the help of The Star newspaper, Blackie the suffering donkey was rescued from his torment and was able to come home to The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon. Below is her experience in her own words from her book ‘A Passion for Donkeys’.

A great deal of concern and attention was focussed, by our charity and the national press, on the annual fiesta held at Villanueva de la Vera. In 1987, two weeks before the fiesta was to take place, we learned that a donkey was again to be used in the normal custom despite our efforts and those of a Spanish-based welfare organisation. The world press reported the events that were due to take place and we were inundated by pleas to help from the British public. We forwarded three thousand letters of protest to Spanish officials in an attempt to stop this needless slaughter.

The donkey used in the fiesta was nicknamed 'Blackie' and due to the presence of animal welfare organisations and the press, he was not unduly harmed except for rope burns on his neck and sides and some damage to his fetlocks. After the fiesta The Star newspaper purchased Blackie and The Donkey Sanctuary was asked to take ownership of him. It was felt that, if left in the village, it was possible that the villagers might take revenge on Blackie for altering the custom of their fiesta. John Fowler, the Sanctuary veterinary surgeon, and Roy Harrington departed for Spain to extricate Blackie from the village into a safe resting place until quarantine regulations allowed him to enter Britain.

During the thirty days of Blackie's quarantine in Spain we had been constantly pestered by the press so arrangements had to be made in secret to go over to Spain on the Easter bank holiday. It had been agreed earlier that The Star reporters would accompany what was to become known as the 'A-Team', in bringing Blackie back.

We had hoped that our arrival would be a secret. However, our hopes were quickly dashed as, on reaching Plymouth, we were informed that the press were 'all over the docks'. The police and customs men did a marvellous job and had somehow managed to move all the reporters off the dock and behind the wire. Pandemonium broke out when we went through the gates. The reporters were told that the lorry would stop and the ramp would be opened for five minutes, so that they could photograph Blackie, but due to the ensuing melee we closed up the ramp and drove off.

Blackie travelled exceptionally well and was unloaded into the stable prepared for him. Nearly all the staff had returned to the Sanctuary that evening to see Blackie's safe arrival. Shortly afterwards Blackie was introduced to a little donkey called Lola, who had come from Wales after having had a fairly tough life and they have become firm friends and will spend the rest of their natural days at the Sanctuary.

Blackie Star remained at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, surrounded by people who loved and cared for him until he passed away in 1993. Blackie Star is buried at the sanctuary among the flowers in the rose garden at Sidmouth. He will always be remembered as a symbol of the suffering of donkeys and the work The Donkey Sanctuary carries out to help these animals in need.

Charity disappointed by 'backwards step' for donkeys

2 January 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary has expressed disappointment at the news that China is reducing the import tax on donkey skins for use in traditional medicine.

Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “We are disappointed that the Chinese government has chosen to reduce the import tax on donkey skins. As the largest equine welfare charity in the world The Donkey Sanctuary continues to call for a halt to the trade in donkey skins.

"The Donkey Sanctuary revealed in 2017 the shocking consequences of the global donkey skin trade that has emerged to meet the demand for the Chinese medicine, ejiao.”

Alex continued: “From Tanzania to Peru, South Africa to Pakistan, donkeys across the world are being stolen and skinned in the night, their carcasses found by distraught owners and their skins imported into China.

"For millions of people in some of the world’s poorest communities, donkeys are still the main means of livelihood and sustain families by providing them with an income and independence. This latest news from China is sadly a backwards step for donkeys and for communities that rely on them.”

Find out more about our work to tackle the donkey skin trade.

Refuge for Faith, Hope and Charity this Christmas

22 December 2017

Three female donkeys neglected and abandoned in North Belfast have been taken into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland.

The donkeys were originally brought to the attention of the charity by a concerned individual who was alarmed at the length and distortion of the donkeys’ hooves and the apparent lack of an owner as there was no sign of care and management being shown to the animals.

One of the donkeys' hooves were so grossly long that she could barely stand, lying on the cold earth in too much discomfort to move.

The donkeys were abandoned on an exposed barren area of land with no access to shelter and more alarmingly they had free access to wander onto an arterial road.

No owner was identified and following collaboration with the local Council Welfare Office the donkeys were removed due to neglect for immediate veterinary referral.

The three donkeys, affectionately named Faith, Hope and Charity, are now being managed at a welfare yard belonging to The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland.

Faith in particular has given the sanctuary considerable concern as she was having difficulty walking and clearly in pain. A radiograph and remedial farriery work has been actioned to try and correct the damage caused to her hooves.

Hope and her daughter Charity have also had their hooves trimmed as well, and all the donkeys have been started on a nutrition and management regime.

The sanctuary is currently providing for the donkeys' care and once they are up to optimum health they will be looking for suitable caring permanent homes for them.

It is thanks to your support that we can be there for Faith, Hope and Charity this Christmas.

Donkey ‘therapy’ offers support to young cancer patients

21 December 2017

A pair of young cancer survivors gained support with their emotional growth from an unlikely source – donkeys.

The Donkey Sanctuary Belfast knows that the calming presence of the donkeys can help vulnerable people develop their life skills, emotional growth and personal awareness.

The Donkey Sanctuary has joined forces with CLIC Sargent to see if the treatment – called Donkey-Assisted Therapy - could have a positive impact on young adult patients looking to process their experiences.

The pilot scheme, held at the charity’s Belfast sanctuary, saw former patients Annaliese Laffan and Leighann Hickinson take part in a nine week Donkey Facilitated Learning programme. The focus of the programme is developing critical life skills in vulnerable people utilizing mutually enriching (donkey and human) interaction sessions.

The hour and a half long interactive sessions take place in a variety of spaces, both inside the arena and outside within a special area that means nature can enhance their experience, with specially trained donkeys. Annaliese and Leighann got to experience sensory grooming, approaching and connecting with donkeys, observing donkeys and their behavior and mindful leading.

Annaliese, 20, was diagnosed with cancer after falling off a jeep and suffering a brain injury while in Australia on a gap year.

Following the accident she was in an induced coma, which led to the discovery of lumps on her neck. During her rehabilitation, she was sent for an emergency biopsy and learned that she had cancer.

“It was such a hard time,” she said. “My parents actually heard the news first. I was struggling to process things with the injury. My parents had to sit me down and talk me through it. It was a horrible shock.”

Annaliese went through grueling treatment, which was repeated when the cancer returned a second time. Throughout her treatment she was supported by Simon Darby, her CLIC Sargent Young Person’s Social Worker. Following her second bout of treatment, he asked her if she would like to get involved in the pilot.

She said: “At first I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t know how it would work, and I was also worried about getting emotional. I had been pressing a lot down inside and it worried me to let it out.

“You work with these calming animals and we would talk about our experiences and how we felt. Before you know it you are talking about your feelings in a way you haven’t expected. It was a very emotional experience.”

Leighann, 22, was diagnosed when she was 20 after developing a weakness in her right side. Doctors later found a brain tumour, which was later found to be malignant. She underwent surgery, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

She said: “I think people need more emotional support when they finish treatment and there’s time for it to hit home. Simon was basically just like a friend to me and helped me get what I needed financially during and after treatment with grants and other things.

“When he mentioned the donkey programme I had no idea what he was talking about. So I went along, not thinking it would work. I find it really hard to talk about my feelings anyway.

“It just gave us a way to distract ourselves with the animals. They help you to relax and to talk about things. I ended up talking about so much. It felt good to talk about these things and this really helped.

“The presence of the donkeys really helps in a way that is hard to explain – you understand when you do it.”

Simon Darby said: “Every week I watched in awe at something I knew very little about. As the weeks went on I experienced goose-bump moments where the young people were talking about issues that many cancer survivors would struggle with years after treatment.

“Leighann and Annaliese have transformed. Having supported them from the beginning of their cancer journeys I can see them now starting to move forward with plans for the future, I can now see their self-confidence and self-belief for the first time.

“They took a chance by becoming involved in this pilot group even though we didn’t know what the outcome would be. But that chance was certainly worth it and now both Annaliese and Leighann have signed up to new courses to work in education, following the process.”

“CLIC Sargent’s ‘Hidden Costs’ report this summer highlighted the emotional and mental impact of cancer on young patients, with 70% of young patients surveyed saying they experienced depression during treatment and 42% having panic attacks.”

“We would be very keen to look at further possibilities within CLIC Sargent for Donkey Facilitated Learning alongside The Donkey Sanctuary.”

Caron Whaley, director of donkey-assisted therapy at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “Our staff facilitate the programme but donkeys do the work – their bond with humans is independent, intuitive, autonomous; without anthropomorphising donkeys, their connection with people both teaches us about them, and teaches us about ourselves. Vulnerable children and adults learn from their physical and emotional experience with these exceptional creatures.”

Urgent food appeal for donkeys in Tanzania

19 December 2017

2,500 starving donkeys in Tanzania urgently need your help.

Our urgent food appeal is in response to a donkey welfare crisis in the Dodoma region of central Tanzania. Two consecutive years of failing rains have left the region as barren as a desert.

Charity convinces eBay to ban ejiao products

15 December 2017

The largest equine welfare charity in the world, The Donkey Sanctuary, has successfully lobbied eBay to immediately stop selling the traditional Chinese medicine ejiao, which contains gelatin from donkey skin and is alleged to offer anti-ageing properties.

Christmas raffle 2017 results

14 December 2017

We are delighted to announce the winning ticket numbers for our Christmas 2017 Raffle, which was drawn by Dawn Vincent, head of communications, on Thursday 14th December 2017.

1st prize winner (£5,000)
Winning ticket no:
6187033 – Mrs Chapman, Worthing

2nd prize winner (£1,000)
Winning ticket no:
4302446 – Ms Derbyshire, Poulton-le-Fylde

3rd prize winner (£200 x 10)
Winning ticket nos:
5055268 – Mrs Knighton-Clark, Ivybridge
6034800 – Ms Page, Haywards Heath
4040485 – Miss Cole, Dursley
3048083 – Mrs Hunter, Hereford
6066186 – Mr & Mrs Guest, Oxford
6069684 – Mrs Waller, Reading
4075819 – Mrs George, Eastleigh
5300559 – Mrs Gilbert, Stockport
6078697 – Ms Grant, Southampton
6053782 – Mrs Walton, Saltash

Fast Reply Winners (£10 M&S Gift Cards)
Winning ticket nos:

We would like to say thank you to everyone who took part in our Christmas Raffle this year. We have been overwhelmed by the enormous response, and your amazing generosity continues to help us to reach more and more donkeys that desperately need help.

Charity welcomes Government's animal welfare bill

12 December 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has welcomed the news that the Government is publishing a new animal welfare bill to increase sentences for animal cruelty and recognise animal sentience in domestic law.

Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “The announcement is a significant step forward in animal welfare standards and we very much welcome it. The Donkey Sanctuary has said all along that we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.”

Mike continued: “The Government’s proposed new bill suggests that animals in the UK will be even better protected post-Brexit and out of Article 13 of the EU Treaty.

"The Donkey Sanctuary, along with other leading animal welfare bodies in the UK, also welcomes the increase to sentences for animal cruelty. These new suggestions can only be a good thing and we look forward to the Government sharing further details with us.”

John Deere tractor stolen from The Donkey Sanctuary

29 November 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has had one of its John Deere tractors stolen between 3:30pm on Saturday 25 November and 9:00am on Sunday 26 November.

Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating the theft of the John Deere 6220 Loader Tractor, registration number, WA06 FVO.

The tractor has a bucket on the front and a new scraper on the back.

Annie Brown, interim director of rescue and rehoming at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “We’re incredibly sad that someone has chosen to target The Donkey Sanctuary – our charity provides vital care to rescued donkey and relies entirely on donations from members of the public.”

“We will ensure that the welfare of our donkeys is not affected by this theft, but it does mean that our teams will be under a great deal of unexpected pressure to keep the farm running smoothly, especially at this time of the year when we’re using the tractor to transport the donkeys’ feed and bedding to them every day.”

Anybody that has information regarding the stolen tractor is urged to contact the police on 101 quoting the crime number CR-102901-17.

Cautious welcome to government u-turn on animal welfare clause

23 November 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has given a cautious welcome to a sudden change of heart by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) following the vote by MPs to reject the inclusion of animal sentience into the EU Withdrawal Bill last week.

Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “The Donkey Sanctuary was disappointed and concerned that the clause was rejected. This defeat could have meant that current animal welfare standards would not have been enshrined in UK law post-Brexit.”

“DEFRA appears to have recognised the strength of feeling and is taking steps to reassure the public and MPs that animal sentience will now be properly recognised in UK legislation.”

He added: “The Donkey Sanctuary believes we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.”

Concluding his response Mike Baker says: “The Donkey Sanctuary, along with British farmers and other leading animal welfare bodies in the UK, is calling on the Government to urgently clarify its position on how it will help protect animal welfare post-Brexit. Action must be taken to ensure that leaving the EU is not a backwards step for animal welfare.”

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling on its supporters to write to their local MP and ask how they voted and what steps they are taking to ensure animal protection remains in UK law.

Donkeys and lions take centre stage in new children’s operas

22 November 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has joined forces with the Born Free Foundation, LionAid and Olsen Verlag publishers in supporting #lionopera, by the leading young British composer, James Olsen. #lionopera is an ambitious new cycle of children’s operas, providing an opportunity for primary schools to take part in the first performances of ‘One of Our Lions is Missing!’ by staging their own production, free of charge in the summer of 2018.

The operas narrate the comic adventures of a lion and a donkey living in a monastery and are freely based on the medieval legend of Saint Jerome. The project offers cross-curricular learning opportunities by providing schools with tie-in educational materials for Key Stage 2 science as well as the means to fulfil National Curriculum requirements in English, music and religious education.

The production delivers a wider message, raising awareness about the global issues and threats faced by donkeys and lions. At the same time it gives young people the chance to explore new skills and develop their existing learning by performing a new high-quality and entertaining musical work. Olsen Verlag will provide a range of digital materials so that the operas can be performed by schools with little or no musical capability.

Carl Wholey, national schools education manager at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “To be involved in #lionopera gives us a chance to create awareness and empathy for animals in a fun and engaging way. The importance of young people understanding the ongoing needs of animals cannot be overstated, these are the policy makers and animal carers of the future. With the donkey in the opera being the ‘clever one’, this is another step to breaking down stereotypes and helping elevate the perceived status of donkeys.

The education pack will not only cover sections of the science National Curriculum, but also provide an opportunity for children to explore their views on animals and the global issues that threaten them.”

Virginia McKenna OBE and Will Travers OBE, co-founders of the Born Free Foundation, said: “Born Free’s heritage with lions goes back over 50 years to the making of the film Born Free and it is vital that our message of Compassionate Conservation is brought to each new generation. James’s genius has created ‘#lionopera’, an exciting, powerful and engaging musical opportunity.

"It will give young minds the chance to express themselves in a way that brings them closer to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for both domestic and wild animals. They say that children are the future and by encouraging young hearts and minds to care we are helping ensure that the future is in good hands.”

Christine Macsween and Dr Pieter Kat, LionAid directors said: “LionAid is very pleased to support this wonderful initiative by James Olsen to engage primary school children in an opera that is not only highly enjoyable for the schools and the children taking part but also is delivering an important conservation and animal welfare message.

"We are thrilled to be providing our expertise on African lion conservation issues because the lion in the monastery now has fewer and fewer wild relatives left and it gives the opportunity to highlight the wonder of this iconic animal through this delightful opera.”

James Olsen, composer and founder of Olsen Verlag said: “It’s an immense pleasure for me to invite schools to participate in the second stage of the #lionopera project. With arts education coming under increasing pressure today, we need to find imaginative new ways of giving youngsters high-quality musical and theatrical experiences, which is why I’m so delighted that we can offer this opportunity to schools free of charge.

"I’m also thrilled to be working with our three partner charities: operas tend only to benefit humans, so it would be an honour if my work can help raise awareness of the threats that lions and donkeys face today, and inspire young people to take an interest in conservation.”

Recognising the pressures put on education budgets, schools are invited to participate in the first performances of the second #lionopera, ‘One of Our Lions is Missing!’ free of charge, but are encouraged to raise funds to support The Donkey Sanctuary, Born Free, LionAid and the project itself.

External links: #lionopera

Help a donkey through the winter weather

22 November 2017

The nights are rolling in, the temperature gauge is dropping and we’re all beginning to wrap up warm for winter.

But for the farm staff at The Donkey Sanctuary, just as much care is taken in ensuring the donkeys are all set for the colder weather.

By adopting a donkey for someone you love this Christmas, you could be helping to make sure that the donkeys who have been rescued or relinquished into our care are well looked after when the cold snap comes.

Most of our donkeys, including adoption donkeys like Ashley, Zena, Eeyore or Pooh (pictured), still enjoy the freedom of having access to their winter paddock, rather than being shut in, so our grooms make sure they have all they need to stay healthy in the wet or the cold.

Everything is thought of, including keeping some road salt on hand to grit the yards, helping the donkeys stay on their feet in icy weather.

So what about a Christmas coat? Young and healthy donkeys have coats which naturally thicken with the approach of winter, but older or poorly donkeys may need a hand to maintain their body heat, so a rug or even a heat lamp is often needed for these animals who are more used to a desert climate.

For geriatric donkeys, extra care is taken to prepare them for the change in weather; from pain relief for arthritis to weight control, diet management and offering something warm to drink.

At our Paccombe Farm in Devon, grooms fill up large containers of warm water for a barn full of elderly donkeys. They soak their feed and fill up troughs with warm water to drink – sometimes with a dash of peppermint – to keep them warm and prevent dehydration. They absolutely love it.

Your support, by adopting a donkey, means that all of our donkeys have a home for life here at The Donkey Sanctuary and we like to ensure they are happy and healthy, whatever the weather.

Adopt A Donkey today

Donkey owners urge others to plan for equine end of life

20 November 2017

Results of a ground-breaking study into end of life care of equines shows that over 70% of owners have no plan in place. The three-year study into donkey and horse owner attitudes to equine end of life was coordinated by Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence (AESE) and supported by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare.

The research, which is the first of its kind in the UK, collected data from more than 2,500 participants using a combination of in-depth interviews, focus groups and an online survey. The research set out to understand how owners feel about making equine end-of-life decisions and to determine what additional information and support is required to help owners at this time.

The study found that only one in eight equids dies suddenly, which means that most owners will be faced with making an end-of-life decision at some stage; however, less than a third of those who had not previously lost an equine had any sort of plan in place.

Participants who had experienced equine end of life were asked what advice they would give to other owners and the majority stressed the importance of having a plan in place: one said: “Make a timely decision, at the right time. Make up your mind beforehand – be prepared, have a plan and get all your contacts ready.”

Furthermore, the research also found that end-of-life decisions are not just for older animals, with the number of equids who die aged 7-10 years being similar to those aged 26-30 years. Another participant said: “The donkey I had to have put to sleep before was young; only a year old.”

The key influence in owners’ end-of-life decisions was their own assessment of quality of life, but many felt they needed more support in doing so, with around half of owners wanting more information on this. As a result The Donkey Sanctuary is developing a quality-of-life tool that will provide support for owners in assessing their donkeys.

Dr Faith Burden, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “This has been an enlightening project, and we are grateful to have been involved. End of life is such an emotional time for owners, however having a plan in place can alleviate some of the stress surrounding saying goodbye to a beloved companion. Taking the time to plan ahead really is in the best interests of the donkey.”

Sam Chubbock, head of UK support at World Horse Welfare, said: “End of life is understandably a very difficult subject for horse owners and as a result it can be tempting to avoid thinking about it until you are faced with the decision. However, it is critical that all owners take time to give this some thought while their horse is still fit and well rather than waiting until they are facing a devastating situation. I would personally like to thank each and every owner who took time to respond to such an emotional study – it is clear from so many of the comments how difficult it was for them to say goodbye to their companions so I am enormously grateful to them for sharing their experience with us.”

The Donkey Sanctuary has several resources available on the subject including:

Jasmin's new start

17 November 2017
Newsletter Issue No: 88

When a good Samaritan in Spain discovered a neglected donkey who could barely walk, The Donkey Sanctuary sprang into action.

The stricken donkey, now known as Jasmin, was thought to have been abandoned and roaming for many years, surviving on river water and long grass, but the lack of care had left her with grossly overgrown hooves.

Jasmin was taken to our Spanish rescue centre, El Refugio del Burrito, where our farrier spent two hours trimming her hooves.

Thanks to one passer-by, Jasmin’s life has changed for the better and she now enjoys a life of sanctuary together with 300 other Spanish donkeys rescued from abandonment or cruelty.

A Lucky escape

17 November 2017
Newsletter Issue No: 88

Earlier this year a 12-year-old stallion donkey was found abandoned in Derry, Northern Ireland.

He was in a neglected state, with overgrown hooves that made walking difficult.

Following a 14-day appeal by Derry and Strabane District Council, no owner came forward to claim him.

His future hung in the balance when the judge presiding over the case gave permission for the donkey to be euthanised if a new home could not be found.

Thankfully, the local council’s animal welfare division contacted us, and our team in Northern Ireland stepped in to secure his future.

He was aptly named Lucky and has undergone veterinary and farriery attention for his hooves, which has made a significant difference.

Lucky has a sweet disposition but he is nervous, and staff at our sanctuary have begun the long process of encouraging him to trust humans again.

His situation is improving every day and we hope in time that Lucky will regain enough confidence to join our Rehoming Scheme. But there is a long road ahead...