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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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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.

Life animal ban for man who neglected donkeys

13 March 2018

A man from Leeds has been disqualified from keeping animals for life after being convicted of three offences against two donkeys in his care.

James Garner Smith (D.O.B 04.09.49) of Westfield Avenue, Yeadon was sentenced at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (8 March).

At a previous hearing he was found guilty in his absence of causing unnecessary suffering to two donkeys by (1.) failing to provide adequate hoof care, (2.) failing to provide proper and necessary lice treatment, and (3.) failing to meet their needs by not supplying them with a supply of fresh and clean drinking water.

'Obvious suffering'

RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell said: “It should have been obvious that these donkeys were suffering.

“All four hooves on both of the donkeys were very overgrown and they were finding it difficult to walk as a result.

“They had a lice infestation and there was no drinkable water available to them.”

A member of the public contacted The Donkey Sanctuary who visited the pair and got in touch with the RSPCA with their concerns. Notices were left at the field where the donkeys were living on three occasions but the donkeys' circumstances remained unchanged so they were seized by police on veterinary advice in June last year.

Sanctuary care

The donkeys - a brown donkey and a grey donkey called Rita and Sue - have been looked after by The Donkey Sanctuary pending the outcome of the case.

As well as the lifetime disqualification, which can be appealed after five years, Smith was deprived of the donkeys, who will now pass into The Donkey Sanctuary’s ownership. He was also sentenced to a four month community order in the form of a curfew from 7pm until 7am and ordered to pay costs of £750 plus an £85 victim surcharge.

Making progress

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Happily with the support of vets, farriers and grooms, both donkeys have made a full recovery. One of the donkeys was very shy and nervous of people when she first came to us but her grooms have been working hard to improve her confidence and her trust in humans is slowly growing.

“Owning donkeys can be a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege, however they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives. Sadly, despite being easy to remedy, lack of appropriate hoof care remains one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in Great Britain today.

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, North Yorkshire 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 and thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are pleased to provide both donkeys with a safe and secure future.”

Concern for tiny Cyprus donkey

28 February 2018

Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary in Cyprus have welcomed a new arrival – Pip Squeak, a young and very tiny donkey who was in need of our help.

A donkey owner who had his own herd of donkeys, inherited Pip Squeak when his previous owners moved away and left him. He had been separated from his mother at three months old - far too early - and although his new owner had done his best to look after Pip Squeak, it was clear that something was not right.

Amongst the herd of lively young donkeys, Pip Squeak was tiny, extremely thin and stood out like a sore thumb.

With an unhealthy look to his slightly shaggy hair and a strange way of walking, compared to the other fit and healthy donkeys, it was impossible not to see that this little two-year-old gelding was not well at all.

Judy Welsman, European welfare manager said: “When we caught him to check him over, he was even thinner than we first thought – literally skin and bone. Despite now having a caring owner and good food, he just wasn’t growing as he should. Being so small and weak, he found it difficult to get to the straw the donkeys were being fed and his owner was gravely concerned for his future.”

We arranged for a vet to give Pip Squeak an assessment, who agreed that this very malnourished little donkey could not continue in his current state and needed our intervention. His owner agreed to sign him over to our care, and was grateful that we could give Pip Squeak the expert care that he so desperately needed.

Immediate needs

Pip Squeak was transported to our sanctuary. On arrival, he seemed a little confused – there were different donkeys, new sights and smells, and for the first time he had a corral and stable all to himself! Making sure he was OK, we left him to take everything in and begin to adjust to his new surroundings.

Our first challenge to bring Pip Squeak back to good health was to look after his immediate needs – food, water and shelter were not a problem, but keeping him warm during the middle of winter turned out to be harder than anticipated.

Judy said: “Pip Squeak was so small, the donkey rugs we had swamped his tiny body – his measurements between his chest and his tail were less than 1 metre long! As he was so thin, he also needed a thicker rug than we would normally use in Cyprus, so finding one for him became a priority.”

A special order was placed to the UK, and within just days the perfect rugs for Pip Squeak arrived. He wasn’t used to being handled and could be a little tricky to catch. However, taking our time and being very gentle, it didn’t take him long to realise that ‘having your PJs on’ was actually really quite nice. In just a few days of twice-daily rug changes, he no longer needed to be caught or have a head collar on – he came over, stood and waited patiently for it to be done.

Introducing him very slowly to extra feed with added vitamins and minerals, he gradually developed an appetite.

The road to recovery

Our vet carried out various tests to check if there were any underlying health conditions which were causing Pip Squeak’s poor condition. Blood tests showed that he was suffering from anaemia, which we treated and will continue to monitor. No other serious problems were detected during the health checks, which was great news, and enabled us to continue to plan his recovery.

He was now being carefully groomed daily, and taken out for short walks to nibble at the rough Cyprus vegetation and give him some exercise and build up his strength. In less than two weeks his walking had improved tremendously and he began to trot around his corral.

Shortly after he arrived Pip Squeak’s weight was taken at 65KG - a month later he had put on an amazing 25KG – almost half his original body weight.

We could see him starting to fill out and his coat was looking much better. Not only was he now cantering around his corral, but he started showing a real interest in everything that was going on.

Pip Squeak still has a way to go but it’s wonderful to see how much he is improving every week and although he’ll never be a typical big Cypriot donkey, he’s proving to have a big heart.

Sanctuary rescues 16 neglected donkeys in Ireland

26 February 2018

Sixteen neglected donkeys who were abandoned in a field to survive on puddle water and tree bark have been rescued by The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland.

Among the desperate donkeys was the carcass of a donkey for whom the winter conditions had just been too much.

Responding to a call from the local government, donkey welfare adviser David Walsh attended the horrific scene and knew right away that he needed to get the donkeys to emergency accommodation.

Drinking puddles

“These donkeys were abandoned with no food or water,” said David. “The donkeys had resorted to drinking water from puddles and were trying to eat tree branches because they were so hungry.

“To see these lovely animals huddled together in misery with a dead donkey in plain sight was horrific.”

The harsh winter weather had left the field they were in waterlogged, and the severely underweight donkeys were struggling to walk on overgrown hooves which were in urgent need of farrier attention.

Taken to sanctuary

All of the donkeys, aged from two to 20 years old, were transported to The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll where the expert veterinary team gave them a full assessment, identifying their individual needs.

The dedicated team were able to treat the ill and feed the hungry – they’ll keep a watchful eye over the herd, monitoring their condition.

It will take a long time for these donkeys to return to full health, but thanks to The Donkey Sanctuary supporters they are on the road to recovery.

Road to recovery

With loving care, their matted and filthy coats have been groomed, their feet have been trimmed and their teeth have been checked by an equine dental technician.

They will be cared for and restored to full health, ready to enjoy a brighter future at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Noel Carton, head of operations at The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland, said: “We are grateful to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Mayo for alerting us to the presence of these donkeys. We can now begin the process of getting them back to full health at The Donkey Sanctuary.”

Equine ban for man who failed to meet the needs of two donkeys

21 February 2018

A man from Ripon, North Yorkshire has been disqualified from keeping equines for five years after failing to meet the needs of two donkeys whose hooves were very overgrown, in a prosecution case brought by the RSPCA.

Ian Stoyles of Gallows Hill appeared before Leeds Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (14 February) for a case management hearing but pleaded guilty instead.

He admitted one offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of, on a day or dates between 6 October 2016 and 6 April 2017, failing to meet the needs of a grey female donkey and a brown and white female donkey by failing to meet their need for adequate hoof care and maintenance.

The RSPCA attended the field where the donkeys were living along with several horses on Scotchman Lane, Morley, Leeds on 6 April last year along with The Donkey Sanctuary after concerns were raised for their welfare.

The two donkeys and a third donkey, who was bonded to one of them, were taken into possession by police on veterinary advice and placed in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, pending the outcome of the RSPCA’s investigation.

RSPCA inspector Kris Walker said: “These donkeys had very overgrown hooves which were obvious to anyone.

“Providing regular and routine farriery care is a vital part of owning equines.

“Cases like this are very sad as they could so easily be avoided.”

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Owning donkeys can be a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege, however they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives.

“The hooves of these two donkeys were severely overgrown, distorting the normal angles of the limb. These changes cause undue stresses and strains on the joints and soft tissues which has a detrimental impact on their welfare.

“Despite being easy to remedy, lack of appropriate hoof care remains one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in Great Britain today.

“Happily with the support of vets, farriers and grooms, both donkeys have made a full recovery. One of the donkeys was very shy and nervous of people when she first came to us but her grooms have been working hard to improve her confidence and her trust in humans is slowly growing.

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, West Yorkshire 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 and we are pleased to provide both donkeys with a safe and secure future.”

As well as the five year disqualification, Stoyles was ordered to pay £120 fine, £30 victim surcharge and £200 costs. In mitigation, he said he had asked a farrier to do it but hadn’t checked.

Ejiao 'not worth buying' say Chinese health officials

21 February 2018

The Donkey Sanctuary has welcomed advice from China's official National Health and Family Planning Commission that ejiao is "not worth buying."

The organisation has caused uproar in the country by suggesting the popular health product - which is made from millions of slaughtered donkeys every year - is "just boiled donkey skin", despite its many health claims.

Just boiled donkey skin

On a post on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) on Sunday, 18 February the Commission, which operates the official 12320 medical advice and information hotline, tweeted that the product is “..not a good source of protein” and that its health claims were at best overstated.

The Donkey Sanctuary has been campaigning for a halt to the global trade in donkey skins, which utilises around four million donkey skins every year.

It is estimated that as many as 2.2 million skins are imported to China from Africa, South America and parts of Asia every year. Over the past two years, an escalating demand for skins to make the product has also resulted in poaching and theft of donkeys from individuals and communities that depend on them, with national donkey populations being halved in some countries.

Social media storm

Many social media users in China shared the Commission’s original posts, others of which said that medical claims or benefits for traditional remedies made from sea cucumber and bird’s nests were also overstated or unverified.

However within a few hours the Weibo feeds for all of the Commission’s tweets (@全国卫生12320) had mysteriously gone offline and remain offline now.

Alex Mayers is the head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary and has been working at ground-level with partners around the globe to expose the donkey skin trade to protect donkeys and the communities that rely on them.

Destroying livelihoods

He says: “A huge number of medical claims are made for ejiao, and despite its high price, it’s an extremely sought-after and popular product. This advice from the Commission has resulted in a lot of discussion on social media in China, both about the claims and benefits of the product and also about it having seemingly been deleted.

“Whether there are any benefits from taking ejiao or not, our primary concern remains that the trade in skins is both inhumane and unsustainable. However if a product is not worth buying then it can’t be worth the price of destroying someone’s livelihood, and the trade is responsible for that every single time a donkey is stolen and slaughtered which itself is every single day.”

Donkeys and wellbeing

20 February 2018

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

20 February 2018

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.”