Latest Sanctuary news

Syndicate content
International animal welfare charity, based in the UK, working to protect and care for donkeys and mules.
Updated: 2 years 11 weeks ago

Gender Pay Gap Report 2017

21 May 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary is committed to diversity among our staff. Gender equality is a significant part of this commitment, and gender pay gap reporting is an important element of transparency in helping us to achieve this.

Under legislation that came into force in April 2017, UK employers with more than 250 employees are required by law to publish an annual gender pay gap report.

The pay gap

Our analysis shows that the difference between men and women’s earnings at the charity is 21% (mean) or 9% (median) based on hourly rates of pay at the snapshot date of 5 April 2017. The charity’s 9% median is significantly below the UK median of 18.4%.

The Donkey Sanctuary is proud that its female staff members are well represented across all pay grades. We have a policy of paying men and women equally for doing the same or equivalent jobs at the charity and we evaluate all jobs using a clear, robust and validated job evaluation system.

Our findings

We recently utilised the expertise of a rewards and benefits consultant to implement a revised pay and banding framework. This was based on benchmark pay for roles using voluntary sector salary surveys such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The Donkey Sanctuary is therefore confident that the gender pay gap does not arise from paying men and women at the charity differently for doing equivalent jobs.

Our research indicates that The Donkey Sanctuary’s gender pay gap is primarily the result of the roles which men and women work in and the salaries that these roles attract.

At the time of reviewing, men were slightly more likely to be in senior specialist roles with high market pay rates than in front-line roles at the lower end of the organisation’s pay scale. This has resulted in both the mean and median gender pay gap.

Positive steps

Since last April we have made some positive steps in addressing the levels of gender equality and how effectively talent is rewarded. A number of senior appointments have been female and the first phase of our Rewards and Benefits review has also sought to erode disparities.

We are working hard to understand any other influences that may have contributed to the gap. Many of the key issues have been identified, but there is still work to do. The charity is conducting further analysis by band and job role and, where any gaps are identified, we will look to address them in the next phase of the Reward and Benefits review which is planned for later this year.

This important issue will be constantly reviewed as we remain committed to ensuring that all our employees are treated fairly.

A helping hand for newborn foal

14 May 2018

Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Brookfield Farm near Honiton have taken on the task of hand-rearing a newborn foal after it was rejected by its mother.

Vets at the charity took the decision to hand-rear the foal after it was clear he had no energy and did not demonstrate the ‘suck reflex’ which foals need to feed.

Leyla Anstee, farm manager at Brookfield said: “The mare and foal were not together or showing any signs of the bonding process that would normally take place. We carefully tried to encourage her to accept him, but this young and inexperienced mum simply did not want to let her foal suckle - it was clear that she had rejected him.”

The mare, called Millie, arrived into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in poor condition. She was relinquished in June 2017 along with seven other donkeys after their owner passed away. At just two-years-old, the young nervous donkey was up to six months in foal and needed expert care to bring her back to good health if she was to be able to safely carry and deliver a healthy foal.

Despite his tricky start in life, the foal made it through his first day and night, and appears to be coping well with being hand reared. Millie is also in good health and has since returned to normal life within the herd at Brookfield. Both of their futures are looking positive, thanks to the expert care of farm and veterinary staff at The Donkey Sanctuary.

The foal has been named Ben, in memory of staff member Ben Kennett who sadly passed away in March 2018. Ben worked at The Donkey Sanctuary for 26 years and was a well-known character at the charity. Maxine Carter, farm manager at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Slade House Farm where Ben worked says: “Ben was a strong and wonderful man. This place was his life, Ben loved his donkeys as much as we loved him.”

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.

Spring Raffle 2018 results

9 May 2018

We are delighted to announce the winning ticket numbers for our Spring 2018 Raffle, which was drawn by Mike Baker, CEO on Wednesday 9 May 2018.

The winning tickets are:

1st prize (£5,000)
Winning ticket number: 2758248

2nd prize winner (£1,000)
Winning ticket number: 2534981

3rd prize winner (£500)
Winning ticket number: 2480393

Runner Up winners (30 x £50)
Ticket Numbers: 1038417, 1068975, 1101119, 2085291, 2148633, 2220226, 2239120, 2239124, 2271956, 2363150, 2378097, 2458004, 2482137, 2515489, 2542105, 2559526, 2568369, 2624076, 2636737, 2687037, 2699153, 2702851, 2732488, 2820641, 2820732, 2824210, 2824216, 2838370, 2859231, 2820731

Fast Reply winners (30 x Donkey tea towel)
Ticket Numbers: 1022656, 1058083, 2010136, 2041977, 2090538, 2244316, 2251543, 2291709, 2293942, 2299510, 2321173, 2336533, 2372870, 2397497, 2409371, 2444277, 2560750, 2577016, 2618459, 2618939, 2623308, 2678694, 2732062, 2819168, 2841220, 2859608, 2877863, 2892088, 2923836, 2925563

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

World Donkey Day kicks off Donkey Week

4 May 2018

To celebrate World Donkey Day (Tuesday 8 May) and the 35th Donkey Week, we're sharing 10 interesting and defining facts about these gentle and highly intelligent animals.

1) Donkeys bond and form lifelong friendships

Bonded donkeys enjoy doing lots of activities together, from mutual grooming to keeping watch while the other one sleeps. Donkeys can become distressed when they are separated and some bonds are so strong that even separating them over a stable door can cause them stress and upset.

2) Donkeys come in all shapes, sizes and colours

There are over 44 million donkeys worldwide and 186 breeds – from a Miniature Mediterranean donkey standing at 31 inches tall to the long, matted haired Poitou donkeys standing at 63 inches tall. The most common colour of a donkey is grey and the rarest colour is pure white.

3)The six sounds of the donkey

The bray is one of six sounds made by a donkey. The other sounds are a growl, grunt, squeal, whuffle and snort. The bray is the loudest and can travel over several kilometres and is individual to each donkey.

4) Donkey don’t smile they ‘flehmen’

Donkeys curl up their top lip and expose their front teeth, known as a ‘flehmen response’ when they find a new or interesting smell. The flehmen response helps transfer smells to an organ just above the roof of mouth that processes new smells.

5) The legend of the cross

Most donkeys display a cross of dark coloured fur on their backs. This is a combination of a ‘dorsal stripe’ along their spines and a ‘shoulder stripe’ across their shoulders. Some believers see the cross-shaped marking as a symbol of the animal bearing Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

6) Donkeys help children to learn

In places like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Colombia donkeys bring education and spread the joy of reading to children by pulling makeshift mobile libraries, when otherwise books might not be accessible. (

7) In times of war

Donkeys have worked on the frontline carrying wounded soldiers and supplies. Their presence can mean the difference between life and death. John Simpson Kirkpatrick was enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and worked as a stretcher bearer in Gallipoli in Turkey. John found a stray donkey on the beaches, which helped to carry 300 casualties from the front line. The donkey was awarded the RSPCA Australian Purple Cross for animal bravery.

8) Eco donkeys

In desert areas, feral and wild donkeys dig to access groundwater, providing a vital lifeline for smaller animals such as birds and chipmunks.

9) The bond between donkeys and humans is closer than you think

Research has shown that a donkey’s heart rhythm can synchronise with, and even influence those of a human when they interact. Because these heart rhythms reflect how we’re feeling, a donkey’s calming mood can reduce a person’s anxiety. The limbic system, the part of a donkey’s brain associated with emotion, behaviour, motivation and memory, is the same size as that of a human.

10) The white van

In many parts of the world, donkeys are the equivalent of our white van, family car, school bus, ambulance and tractor, all rolled into one. Owning a donkey can be a lifeline to families, and a donkey can even support entire communities by helping with essential daily tasks – from fetching water for the village to transporting goods to market.

Donkey Week 2018

From 8–15 May, The Donkey Sanctuary will be hosting its 35th Donkey Week at its international headquarters in Sidmouth, Devon. Hundreds of people from as far away as Italy, France and America will be attending the unique donkey-themed holiday. Daily activities include donkey grooming and walking, tractor and trailer rides, informative talks and evening entertainment.

Donkey Week is a legacy from The Donkey Sanctuary’s founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE, who wanted to create a holiday that brought people together from around the world who shared the love of donkeys. Donkey Week has been running every year since 1983.

The Donkey Sanctuary to attend the Scottish Equine Welfare Conference

3 May 2018

Equine owners across Scotland are invited to a valuable day of learning and insight at the annual Scottish Equine Welfare Conference, which will be attended by The Donkey Sanctuary.

The event is a key date in the Scottish equestrian calendar and will be held on 11 May at the Weipers Centre Equine Hospital, Glasgow.

The annual conference, now in its fourth year is a collaboration between The Donkey Sanctuary, The British Horse Society Scotland, World Horse Welfare, SSPCA and the Scottish Government.

Focusing this year on ‘Keeping the Modern Equine’, the event will cover a wide range of issues and will feature speakers from across the industry including Roly Owers, Derek Knottenbelt, Russell Guire, Jane Myers, Sheila Voas and Dr Sue Dyson. It is set to be a fascinating and insightful day for anyone involved with equines at all levels.

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “The focus of this year’s event looks at the common challenges facing many horse and donkey owners in the modern world. With expert speakers covering a range of topics, we hope to provide a platform for experts and owners to come together to share their ideas, experiences, challenges and explore resolutions and our donkey welfare advisers will also be on hand to answer any questions.

"The Donkey Sanctuary is delighted to be working in conjunction with The British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare, SSPCA and the Scottish Government and remains committed to improving the welfare of donkeys and mules through engagement, education and advice.”

Helene Mauchlen, British Horse Society national manager for Scotland says: “The conference is a fantastic event which provides a whole host of practical and thought-provoking information to support equine owners, sharers and loaners into making the right decisions for their animals.”

Helene continued: “In Scotland, the biggest welfare challenges our equines face include obesity, over-rugging, incorrect management and delayed death which are all issues that can be addressed through education. I’d urge anyone who has responsibility for a horse, pony or donkey to join us at the conference in Glasgow.”

Tickets cost £35 (£15 for Local Authorities and Charity Field Officers), for a full programme list and to book tickets please go to:

For more event information please contact: 01764 656334 or email:

A bray of thanks to our Marathon magnificent seven

24 April 2018

In temperatures topping 24°C, a team of seven runners took on the 2018 London Marathon, raising nearly £16,000 for The Donkey Sanctuary. The group all had their own reasons for taking on the challenge but shared the same goal of supporting the work of the charity.

Swapping the shores of her island home in Bermuda, Claire de Ste Croix ran alongside her brother James Tomkinson from Cornwall. Claire thought she would never race competitively again after being caught up in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings – she’d just finished the race when the bombs were detonated. Claire and James crossed the finish line on The Mall on Sunday afternoon together in four hours, thirty seven minutes and 29 seconds.

Victoria Lack from Germany found the event amazing but was extremely glad to have got to the finish; she posted a time of five hours, twenty four minutes and 59 seconds.

Staff nurse Lesley Walker teamed up with running partner Stuart Hurcomb and were determined to cross the line together. The pair have been used to training in freezing temperatures around their homes in Broxburn, near Edinburgh, often having to deal with snow and icy conditions. In what was officially the hottest London Marathon on record, according to the Met Office, Stuart registered a time of four hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds with Lesley just one second behind.

Joining the team just two weeks before the race, Melody Vasey completed the course in six hours, five minutes and 56 seconds. Melody chose The Donkey Sanctuary after spotting the advert in the London Marathon magazine.

Kimmarie Smith from North Devon showed an amazing amount of guts and determination and was cheered through the final stages of the event by the fundraising team. Spurred on by her husband she posted a time of seven hours, twenty-nine minutes and 47 seconds.

Louise Jones, community fundraising manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Our runners are always amazing people but to complete the marathon in such searing heat this year was an absolutely incredible achievement! We want to say a massive thank you to them all for their amazing efforts.”

Louise continued: “We so value their support and determination to fundraise in this way by taking part in such an iconic race and I know they really, really loved every minute of it! Just to hear their feedback and see them afterwards was a very humbling and inspiring feeling.”

New collaboration to develop equine welfare in China

24 April 2018

Two of the UK’s leading equine welfare charities, The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare have formed a groundbreaking partnership with the China Horse Industry Association (CHIA) and the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) to improve equine welfare in China.

The signing of the Memorandum of Association (MoU) was announced yesterday (Monday 23 April 2018) during the 15th World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) Congress in Beijing.

Working towards a common goal to promote equine welfare in China, The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, CHIA and CVMA will collaborate on improving equine welfare through education and research to bring about the highest international standards.
The four organisations’ expertise, skills and strengths will benefit the health and welfare of China’s equines, of which there are an estimated 5.4 million donkeys, 2.9 million mules and 5.9 million horses.

Mike Baker, CEO, The Donkey Sanctuary, sees this unique collaboration as positive step forward for donkey welfare in the country. “Working with World Horse Welfare, CHIA and CVMA will be groundbreaking for equine welfare in China,” he said.

“This agreement is a great opportunity as China clearly needs support to develop the necessary equine veterinary expertise and the practicing vets with specific donkey and horse knowledge and experience. This partnership will provide the chance to give these animals the healthcare they desperately need. We welcome the enthusiasm of CHIA and the equine sector involved with this event to improve animal welfare and it is so encouraging to see the massive strides being taken for better care of donkeys, horses and other animals.”

The Donkey Sanctuary also launched The Clinical Companion of the Donkey, a definitive textbook for clinicians and professionals working in donkey medicine or surgery, which was made available in both Chinese and English.

Welcoming the partnership, Dr Faith Burden, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “The response we have received from the Chinese veterinary community has been amazing – the textbook has been really well received.”

Roly Owers, CEO, World Horse Welfare said: “To make a difference we have to work in partnership and we are delighted to support China’s horse industry and their equine vets to help them reach the highest health and welfare standards. Equine vets, equipped with the necessary skills, have a fundamental role to play in China’s expanding equestrian market and beyond, and it is essential that they receive the training and support they need to be world class. Together we look forward to adding value to help improve the welfare of all equines in China.”

Claire turns the tables on tragedy with London Marathon run

20 April 2018

Bermuda resident Claire de ste Croix will join tens of thousands of runners pounding the streets of the capital this weekend for the 2018 London Marathon. Joined by her brother James, she’ll be covering the 26.2 miles in support of The Donkey Sanctuary.

Despite being a regular competitor at events in the past, Claire vowed never to run another marathon after witnessing tragedy in 2013. But after a call from her brother in the UK, she’s bravely stepping up to the challenge.

A surreal moment

Seasoned runner Claire could not have imagined taking part in another marathon after being caught up in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Her expected time would have seen her cross the finishing line at the same time as the bombs were detonated, but she had managed to run eleven minutes quicker meaning she was going through the processing channel as the terrorists struck.

Claire recalls: “It was a surreal moment; I was being processed through the processing chute when the explosions happened. It was a terrible tragedy and it upset me no end and I vowed never to run another marathon.”

Desire to run

The decision to run again came after a call from her brother James. He was going through a tough time following a back injury and was dosed up on pain killers recovering at home in the UK. From his couch, James was watching the 2016 London Marathon and was inspired by all the runners and also by the Royal Family who were supporting mental health issues. This was a pivotal moment and the motivation James needed to set his goal on the 2018 London Marathon.

Claire continued: “James’ desire to run to aid his recovery and to mark his 50th birthday helped make my decision to support him, this is a massive undertaking for him and knowing I can help him achieve this was what I needed to make my decision.”

Doing it for donkeys

The choice to raise funds for The Donkey Sanctuary was a straightforward one for the pair as when they were children, their mother Beryl rescued the families’ first donkey Brandy from a meat market. After feeling sorry for her in a bedraggled state with her sad eyes, the donkey was squeezed into the back of their Land Rover and taken home.

It was soon discovered Brandy was pregnant and she gave birth to a foal which they named George. The two lived a happy life for many years before becoming ill after eating poisonous plants.

The Donkey Sanctuary were called in to help but after trying everything they could, Brandy and George sadly passed away. Claire adds that the charity: ‘Went above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts and they couldn’t have done anymore to help.”

Truly inspirational

Claire and James will be part of a team of six runners taking part in the event to raise money for The Donkey Sanctuary and while the others are based across the UK and Europe, at three and a half thousand miles away Claire will be travelling the furthest to take part.

Louise Jones, community fundraising manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Claire’s story is truly inspirational and we are so grateful to her and James for supporting The Donkey Sanctuary. Without the support of dedicated fundraisers like this we would not be able to continue our vital work to help donkeys around the world to live a life free of suffering.”

To support their Claire’s fundraising efforts please visit her JustGiving page.

Visit to China to launch new professional textbook

19 April 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary will officially launch its new professional textbook, The Clinical Companion of the Donkey, on Saturday 21 April 2018 at the 15th World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) Congress in Beijing, China.

Chief executive Mike Baker and director of research Dr Faith Burden will be among representatives from The Donkey Sanctuary attending the WEVA Congress to celebrate the launch of the donkey-specific textbook, which focusses on all aspects of donkey health and welfare.

The event is seen by The Donkey Sanctuary as pivotal in equine health and welfare and the charity is delighted to be able to demonstrate its commitment to the sharing of this important knowledge and the promotion of best practice to all those who work with and care for donkeys, to improve their welfare globally.

While in China, The Donkey Sanctuary will take the opportunity to engage with key players in government, industry and the veterinary community to promote the highest international standards of donkey welfare.

Related articles

Our top tips for getting to the start line

13 April 2018

‘The London Marathon’ – it’s a tough thing to say, let alone do! But every year, more than 40,000 amazing people take to the capital’s streets to run for all manner of charitable causes.

I ran for the Donkey Sanctuary in 2015. It was an incredible experience and, whilst the miles of training were very long, it was all worth it in the end, running down the Mall and crossing that finish line.

But the most rewarding thing was knowing the money I raised by taking this 26.2-mile challenge on went towards helping thousands of donkeys and mules around the world.

From those 200 donkeys Dr Elisabeth Svendsen inherited nearly 50 years ago, last year the Donkey Sanctuary provided sanctuary to over 7,000 animals across Europe, and I was lucky enough to meet some of them.

These beautiful animals have so much character and are full of energy, deserving none of the mistreatment or malnourishment they receive. That’s why it’s so important people run for donkeys.

I want to encourage more people to run for the Donkey Sanctuary, which is why I’ve made a survival guide to the London Marathon!
It’s a video where myself and the London Marathon runners of 2018 give our top tips for getting to the start line on marathon day.
From the number of miles you should train, to what should be in your fridge, this is marathon 101 straight from the donkeys’ mouths!
When I ran the London Marathon three years ago, I was in my final year of a Classics BA at Warwick University, before moving onto a Sports Journalism MA at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham.

My passion is sport, whether I’m taking part or commenting on it, and the course let me channel this through video production.
Armed with my video production skills and a camera, I went down to Sidmouth to meet the donkeys and create this video, which I hope will encourage more people to run for the Donkey Sanctuary.

So enjoy watching, and all that’s left to say to the 2018 London Marathon is: Do It For Donkeys!

Warren Muggleton

Donkeys rescued from Spanish 'farm of horrors'

5 April 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary in Spain has secured the safety of three donkeys who were left in darkness to suffer alongside many other desperate and dying animals in a “farm of horrors”.

The team at El Refugio del Burrito responded to a tip-off about the farm in Bormujos, Sevilla, and were horrified by what they found.

No food or water

“The smell of death was devastating,” said Veronica Sanchez, sanctuary director. “Two horses were in an advanced state of decomposition and there were a multitude of bones from many animals scattered all over the ground. Next to this cemetery, other animals were still alive but had no food or water.”

When they arrived to investigate, it was clear that this was one of the worst cases of animal neglect, our Spanish partners had ever seen.

In the dark rooms full of excrement, they found three donkeys sharing their nightmare existence with horses, dogs, sheep, chickens and a goat.

Nightmare existence

Veronica and staff at El Refugio del Burrito worked tirelessly to try to complete the legal removal of the dying animals, and immediately called the Seprona – the animal police in Spain.

An urgent application was made seeking authority to confiscate the remaining animals who were starving to death.

Much to the frustration of sanctuary staff on the ground, the local authorities with the power to give the operation the green light dragged their heels and when they returned the next day, the donkeys had vanished.

Donkey disappearance

Veronica added: “We returned to give water and food to the animals on the farm and we had an awful surprise in that the three donkeys and a horse had disappeared.

“Apparently, the owner had been informed that they were going to be seized and he took them. This was really disappointing because we knew this was going to happen and we were expecting quicker action from the police.

“However, we later received an anonymous call telling us where we could find the donkeys and horse and we were able to take them to a safe place. Not only could we save the donkeys, but the rest of the animals that were in the farm were also taken to local animal sanctuaries.

“We hope now that the case will proceed to court, because it is totally obvious that this owner is not only incapable of giving these animals the proper care, but he is mistreating them and letting them die without any veterinary treatment.”

New names, new home

Once the trio’s safety had been secured, The Donkey Sanctuary collaborated with an animal sanctuary called Fundación Santuario Gaia who offered to take the donkeys and give them a loving forever home.

Now called Seina, Gabriela and Manel, the donkeys are enjoying a happy life and a brighter future which had previously seemed impossible.

Thanks to your support, our teams around the world are there to fight for the rights of donkeys, no matter how desperate the situation. El Refugio del Burrito are working hard to take the case to court.

Mules with long feet given fighting chance of recovery

4 April 2018

Three Scottish mules with grossly overgrown hooves have been given a fighting chance of survival thanks to vital treatment offered up by The Donkey Sanctuary.

In the absence of appropriate farriery care, their feet had grown so much that they painfully curled back on themselves, potentially causing lasting ligament damage.

Collaboration and care

The stallion trio were rescued by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in the north of Scotland and it was agreed they would be taken to a holding base in Aberdeen where we could provide all the care and treatment they needed.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s donkey welfare adviser for the region, Gill Hamilton, had never seen hooves in such state of neglect, however, she knew she had a team of experts she could call upon to relieve the pain and suffering – but they’re not out of the woods yet.

Not out of the woods

Maisie, Indie and Oscar were given immediate pain relief before a holding base vet came to assess the animals; a farrier was booked right away to remove the excessive curling and twisted hooves.

Gill, who has been caring for the four-legged friends, said: “If these poor mules were left, eventually they would have been unable to walk due to the shape of their hooves. The damage to the joints and tendons would have required immediate euthanasia.

Unable to walk

“All three had been left to fend for themselves and were really not used to being handled. They needed to be sedated to allow the farrier to trim their hooves.

“Oscar and Indie are now allowing me to stroke them and we have established a daily routine for feeding and mucking out, although Maisie does present a bit more of a challenge with his behaviour.”

Given a chance

The mules will remain on pain relief to help them adjust to their newly-shaped hooves and they will be x-rayed to determine if there is any further damage.

At this time, until we can assess how the hooves grow and we can start to reduce the pain relief, the outcome is still uncertain – but thanks to your support, they have been given the best chance of recovery.

Help us save more donkeys like Roma

3 April 2018

Roma is just one of many abandoned donkeys taken into our care each year from Ireland. When we found this little donkey foal stuck in a freezing bog we were there to pull her to freedom. We need your vital support. Donate today to offer a brighter future to desperate donkeys like Roma. Find out more about how your support is helping...

How donkey ‘therapy’ helps autistic young adults

28 March 2018

Emily is autistic and has very limited vision and hearing, making communication difficult for her, but The Donkey Sanctuary and a miniature donkey named Juniper have helped her make a connection into the world around her.

23 year old Emily often struggles to control her emotions and can at times become very distressed and confused, but since coming to The Donkey Sanctuary, Emily has learnt that donkeys are more than just adorably long ears, soft furry noses and charming characters; donkeys matter and can help with the development of critical life skills, such as managing emotions in vulnerable children and adults.

The Donkey Sanctuary has six centres around the UK offering Donkey-Facilitated Learning sessions. The sessions use a calm and mindful approach to bring people and donkeys together, and provide opportunities for emotional connection, social interaction, communication and confidence building.

Emily had a particularly difficult year in 2017, after badly damaging her leg in an accident. Confined to a wheelchair whilst her leg was healing, she became very withdrawn and frustrated, and found it difficult to understand what was going on. When she first attended The Donkey Sanctuary to take part in the interaction sessions, Emily wasn’t interested and was incredibly anxious.

Melissa, Emily’s mum commented: “The staff and donkeys were patient and understanding, and gradually Emily started to feel more positive and engaged with the activities.

Her sessions with Juniper helped her to relax, and she enjoyed being by his side touching his coat, brushing his tail, and just his presence alone was calming and Emily seemed to mirror this. After her accident, when she needed to build up her strength and confidence, Juniper helped her recovery as she was motivated to walk with him around the arena.

Melissa, Emily’s mum, talks about the changes in Emily: “Emily was so locked in before we started, and being close to the donkeys really tunes her into herself and the world around her. She is always calm and grounded, and after her visits the positive effects can last for days. She is ‘feeling’ her emotions more now, and starting to understand them.”

Emily has formed a special bond and friendship with miniature donkey Juniper. Emily giggles and talks to him, always saying ‘goodbye Juniper’ at the end of the session. Mum Melissa says that this has really helped with her communication and she now even interacts with her pet dogs at home, whereas before she wouldn’t.

Caron Whaley, director of donkey-assisted therapy at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “As social creatures donkeys are very aware of their environment and the people within it. I have witnessed sessions where people that may struggle to communicate or connect emotionally with another human somehow seem to be able to connect with our donkeys.”

Juniper benefits from time spent with Emily and their interaction too. It keeps him active and enriches his life by stimulating his mind. During the sessions Juniper has a free rein and it’s his choice to approach Emily and spend time with her, or to move away if he wishes.

When Juniper is with Emily, he shows signs of relaxation and curiosity. Like all donkeys, Juniper is very intelligent, and the mental stimulation which comes with interacting with new people and new experiences makes his life more enriching. The gentle movement that Juniper undertakes in these sessions also helps him physically as he has mild arthritis, which is managed with medication, but helped by keeping him active.

Buzz and friends get a fresh start

21 March 2018

Nine donkeys have been brought into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary after a commercial operator from North East England failed to make adequate improvements to their welfare.

The donkeys were underweight but continued to be booked for events.

Several welfare agencies, including The Donkey Sanctuary, RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and British Horse Society, had made prolonged attempts to support the donkeys alongside the local authority that licenses the commercial operators, but the improvements were not adequate.

Case proceedings were started but, as the owner signed them over, the decision was made at that point not to progress further. The owner’s licence as a commercial operator has not been renewed.

The donkeys, Maisie, Fallon, Paddy, Jack, Mini, Buzz, Sonic, Woody and Bobby, have since gone on to join new herds on our farms where their needs were best met – young, lively male donkeys get along and play together, while a mare in foal needed to be kept in quieter company.

These donkeys, who have been given sanctuary for life, are doing well and have reached a healthy weight. It is hoped that some of them may eventually be suitable to join our Rehoming Scheme to enjoy life with a loving family of Donkey Guardians.


Buzz is a donkey who stands out in the herd – for his lovely character and because of his floppy left ear. We aren’t sure why or how his ear became this way before he was in our care – he could have been born that way – but it certainly adds to his charm.

He is a very friendly donkey, with a sweet and gentle nature. His groom Emma Mortimer says that he can be a real worrier when faced with new experiences, and that he needs his friends to give him confidence, but he soon follows where they lead.

His friendship group includes a group of four other donkeys – Sonic, Woody and Bobby were relinquished alongside Buzz, and Oscar who came into our care at a similar time to them.

Buzz and Oscar have formed quite a close bond, and are often found together. It is common for donkeys to bond and form lifelong friendships. This is something that we take into account with every aspect of care here at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Fond farewell to Charlie C

20 March 2018

Devoted staff at The Donkey Sanctuary have said their farewells to beloved donkey Charlie C who has passed away at the age of 26.

The ex-adoption donkey was originally from Devon but proved popular at our sanctuary in Birmingham, having spent more than two decades delighting visitors there.

He arrived in Birmingham in 1997 at just five years old and it was obvious that his charming personality, fluffy coat, and daily bray would make him a perfect choice for our adoption scheme.

Charlie had thousands of adopters over the years and the staff are always asked how he is doing.

Andrew Perry, a groom from our sanctuary in Birmingham, said: “Charlie has provided interaction sessions for children and adults. Loved by all, Charlie stood quietly to be stroked and groomed and even placed his head on their shoulders at times.

“Charlie was one of the only donkeys that would walk over to you when called by name. Every day, waiting for his lunch you would hear a staff member calling him and he would come trotting over licking his lips - much to the delight of visitors, volunteers and staff alike.”

In 2015 he lost his long-standing best friend Donk Dean, and for a long time he kept himself to himself.

However, more recently, he befriended an 11-year-old big, brown donkey called Bert who arrived in Birmingham having been abandoned in Ireland.

Bert gave Charlie a real boost in his later life and the pair could be found playing tug-of-war with a wellington boot!

Charlie passed away quietly and peacefully, surrounded by the staff who had cared for him for over 20 years.

He will be sadly missed, but the memories of our fluffy, funny friend will last forever.

Branching out for donkeys in Tanzania

20 March 2018

Community projects around the world are showing us that it is vital to involve local people when it comes to improving donkey welfare in the long-term.

In Tanzania, The Donkey Sanctuary is supporting a programme called Roots and Shoots to improve the welfare of thousands of donkeys.

Through sharing stories and knowledge, and encouraging grassroots activism, the value of donkeys for children in school to owners who use their animals to farm is becoming clear.

Thanks to our supporters we can fund Roots and Shoots to integrate donkey welfare action projects into their school club activity in more than 20 schools across northern Tanzania.

Recently, the team set out on a walk to assess the welfare of 256 donkeys in the region.

Gumbo Mhadeni, donkey project co-ordinator, said: “It’s really helpful to know the welfare status in relation to the seasonal variation. Right now, it’s the farming season and many donkeys play a gigantic role.

“Overall health was OK, but we observed some injuries that might have been caused by long working hours during the farming season.

“For local sustainability of our action projects, we have seen it is very crucial to involve local people who are willing and devote their time - they are so full of passion.”

We are continuing to see the positive effects of this global youth programme, whose guiding principle is that knowledge leads to compassion and compassion leads to action.

Ensuring the safeguarding of animal welfare post-Brexit

14 March 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary has welcomed the news that the European Parliament has today approved a Resolution that prevents deregulation in animal welfare post-Brexit.

The charity is part of the Brexit Task Force within the Eurogroup for Animals and has been working at a national level to ensure there are no reductions in animal welfare standards when Britain leaves the EU.

The vote is a significant step forward in securing animal welfare standards following Brexit and comes ahead of the negotiations on the long-term relationship where Parliament will have a final say.

Valentina Riva, advocacy manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “We see today’s vote as a very positive step towards ensuring animal welfare standards are upheld. It is important we give a voice to donkeys and not leave these animals to their fate when it comes to Brexit.”

Valentina continued: “We have been working within the Eurogroup for Animals’ Brexit Task Force on many levels and have provided veterinary expertise and policy guidance and will continue to support this important work."

The Resolution clearly sets out the conditions that Parliament needs to see in any final deal in order for MEPs to grant their approval.

Crucially, thanks to the efforts of several Members of the European Parliament Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, and Eurogroup for Animals, the Resolution contains a number of strong provisions on animal welfare, including ‘A requirement for the UK to adhere to animal health and welfare rules (as a minimum) in order to create a level playing field.’

Donkey sent on Afghanistan suicide mission

14 March 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary has spoken out after armed opposition terrorists loaded a donkey with bombs and sent it on a suicide mission against a security target in Afghanistan.

The charity has condemned the attack, which took place on Monday, 12 March, in its entirety. Two policemen in Kunar province were injured when explosives being carried by a donkey were detonated before it reached its intended target of a security post.

Reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua, provincial police chief Haqnawaz Haqyar said: “The armed opposition terrorists adjusted an explosive device on a donkey and were attempting to detonate it next to a police checkpoint in the Sayed Khil area of Sarkano, but a police patrol stopped the donkey and the militants nearby detonated it with remote control injuring two local police personnel.”

Cruel and cowardly

Simon Pope, rapid response and campaigns manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “Donkeys are often called beasts of burden but the only beasts in this story are the cruel individuals who sent them on such a cowardly and fateful mission. That they should use an innocent animal in this way is shameful.”

Taliban militants who are active in Sarkano district and largely dependent on suicide and roadside bombings have yet to comment on the attack

Simon continues: “Used across the world to deliver heavy loads, this is not the first time the humble donkey has been exploited in this most barbaric way. The animals have been used to carry bombs in Afghanistan on at least two occasions in the past – in 2009 and 2014.

"In the 2009 attack, the poor creature was shot before it reached a security post after a guard noticed men running away from the donkey after sending it running towards the post.”

Previous attacks

In 2014, Hamas militants used a donkey laden with explosives for a suicide attack on an Israeli army position in the southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border. Troops were forced to open fire on the animal - blowing it up before it reached them.

Animal-borne attacks tend to catch security forces unaware and the latest donkey attack in Afghanistan will give Afghan security forces another potential threat to look out for.

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.

Margarita saved from illegal camp of starving animals

14 March 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary in Spain has come to the aid of authorities after they seized a number of mistreated equines.

Local police conducted a raid in Badajoz, Spain and found 26 famished animals in the hands of a group of Portuguese travellers, known as ciganos, who were engaged in the illegal trafficking of animals and collection and sale of scrap metal.

Police seized the animals, and called upon local animal welfare charities for help – our sanctuary in Spain, El Refugio del Burrito, were quick to respond.

Open wounds

Among the animals seized from the illegal camp were five horses and a mule. Verónica Sanchez, director of El Refugio del Burrito, said: “All the animals seized were found in an extremely poor and frail condition. The equines had open wounds caused by inappropriate harnesses - their extreme thinness and the excessive weight of the carts they pulled - which was around 450 to 500 kg - only exacerbated the wounds.”

The conditions that the animals were living in within the camp were grim. With no access to water or quality food, foraging only on what they could find in the field - the majority of animals were suffering from dehydration and starvation.

Often, the animals were not kept secure and would wander off in search of food and water into the capital Badajoz, straying onto busy roads. Sadly, this is a recurring problem.

Carlos Rosa, a local veterinarian, explained: “Every year it is the same story. The ciganos come across the border from Portugal to deal equines in Extremadura, Spain. The animals run free looking for food, and are found loose on the roads, injured or dead, which represents a case of animal mistreatment and compromises the safety of citizens on the road.”

Mule and donkey rescued

This problem also occurs when the animals are no longer of any use to the ciganos – they abandon them when they are sick or too old. This is how we found elderly donkey Candy, roaming free on a national road. He was frail and of no further use, so cast out and left to fend for himself. Candy is now safely in our care, and enjoying the rest of his days at El Refugio del Burrito where he has everything he needs.

The mule which was seized from this camp is also now living at the sanctuary, freed from her suffering. Margarita, as she’s been named, is 27 years old.

Our vets needed to give her a full assessment, to identify any health concerns that we would need to deal with to help her on her road to recovery. This was not easy, as Margarita was so nervous.

A stressful experience

Coral Ruiz, head of animal welfare of El Refugio del Burrito said: “When Margarita first came into the sanctuary, our vet tried to check her, but it was impossible because of the fear she had, she urinated on herself several times and she was shaking - she clearly looked stressed. We decided to leave her for a while and give her some space, so she could have the time she needs to become familiar with us and feel comfortable”.

Now Margarita was settled, staff can work on improving her health. Within just one month, she has gained weight from being fed a high calorie diet with vitamins and minerals and is looking much better. Her teeth are in a very poor state, and urgent dental work was required to help her eat comfortably – further visits from the equine dentist are needed to extract painful broken teeth.

She also has joint pain in the hind limbs, possibly derived from osteoarthritis and the over-weight loads she was carrying.

While Margarita is in recovery staff will continue to monitor her progress and assess her quality of life – she is responding very well to treatment and we are hopeful for her future in our care.

Working together

Rosa Chaparro, communications manager who assisted with Margarita’s rescue, said: "This case of animal abuse is the direct consequence of a problem of social exclusion. The people who form these camps do not have resources or properties, and culturally this is their way of living - they are travellers, they survive on the margin of legality.

"They go from place to place looking for sustenance and scrap. They buy, change and sell animals to make a living. In the end, as always, those who pay for the consequences of social inequalities are the most vulnerable people, children and animals. We hope that the competent authorities in Portugal will do something to help these people, to help integrate them into society so that they can earn a living in a legal way, that their children can go to school and break the circle of poverty that often causes this terrible animal abuse."

We are thankful to the authorities in Spain - the local police, the Town Hall from Badajoz and the Seprona, who fulfilled their duties safeguarding the welfare of the animals. We will continue to work with the authorities to promptly offer our support in situations like this where donkeys and mules are in need of help, and work together to stop their suffering.