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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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Volunteers wanted to build boxes for Devon’s wildlife

14 August 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary is welcoming volunteers to its Woodland Box Volunteer Day near Sidmouth on Wednesday 23 August from 10am to 4pm.

Volunteers are needed to help build and put up nest boxes for dormice, bats and woodland birds on Donkey Sanctuary land at Paccombe Farm in Harcombe, near Sidbury, which is home to almost 400 donkeys and surrounded by 93 acres of amazing woodland.

As well as creating habitat and helping the charity monitor these species, volunteers will get the opportunity to meet the Sanctuary’s donkeys, who benefit from these projects through environmental enrichment and a healthy ecosystem.

Ruth Angell, The Donkey Sanctuary’s wildlife and conservation manager says: ‘Each month I run a wildlife and conservation volunteer day, which can include outdoor practical tasks such as gardening, woodland management, hedge laying and hedge planting, willow weaving and pond restoration. These events are totally reliant on volunteers and are a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, share and learn skills, and have fun.’

The Donkey Sanctuary will also be holding a Himalayan Balsam Clearance Volunteer Day on Wednesday 6 September at East Axnoller Farm in Dorset, and welcomes volunteers on a drop-in basis to its Butterfly Garden Thursdays - a weekly gardening project running all year round.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Volunteer Days are free events, however, booking is recommended. No experience is necessary, just a reasonable level of fitness and volunteers must be over the age of 16. Gloves, tools and hot drinks will be provided, but please wear sturdy footwear and appropriate outdoor clothing. Volunteers should bring a packed lunch.

For further information and to book a place on The Donkey Sanctuary’s volunteering days, please contact Ruth Angell on 01395 573162 or ruth.angell@thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk

The Donkey Sanctuary Summer Fair

3 August 2017

When: Sunday 13 August, from 10:00am until 4:00pm.

Where: The Donkey Sanctuary, Slade House Farm, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 0NU

Join The Donkey Sanctuary at its Summer Fair for a fun-filled day with activities for the whole family to enjoy. Highlights include donkey meet and greets, trailer rides, Punch and Judy, fun stalls and games, go-karting, a climbing wall, archery, fire brigade demonstration, bouncy castles, face painting and glitter tattoos, a free prize draw, award winning food and drink and a shopping village to treat yourself in.

Throughout the day, there will be live music from local rock-band, Leave Before Dawn and singer songwriter, Anna Hamill, as well as live entertainment from Seaton's community samba band, Sunshine Samba, so be prepared to show off those best dance moves.

Chris Phillips of The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Come on down and join us for this action-packed day. We guarantee that there will be something for everyone in the family. It’s going to be a super day, perhaps even the highlight of your summer!”

Admission for this event is £1 per adult with children under 12 going free, payable at the entrance gate. Parking is free. For information about this event, please contact The Donkey Sanctuary’s Events Team on: 01395 573156 or email events@thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk, or visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/event/10778

The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth is open seven days a week from 9am. It holds events and open days throughout the year and all proceeds go towards The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the community and worldwide.

Summer adventure at The Donkey Sanctuary

24 July 2017

Visit The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth this summer for a donkey adventure, including the Around the World Trail and a fun interactive experience.

There are activities for all the family at The Donkey Sanctuary this summer. Open from 9am every day, the Sanctuary’s holiday activities will begin on 21 July and will run every day until 3 September.

Explore The Donkey Sanctuary by following the Around the World trail and find out where donkeys are working hard to support families and contribute to industry. Entry and car parking at the Sanctuary are FREE, and trail sheets are available from the Gift Shop for just £3 with an ice cream reward when you’ve finished.

For more adventure, then why not venture further afield to the Nature Centre or the giant Poitou Donkeys, enjoy our beautiful adoption donkeys and discover the path to the beach through the Field of Dreams. There are also guided walks, meet the groom sessions twice daily, the Maze to lose yourself in and a range of souvenirs to browse in the Gift Shop.

When it’s time to take a well-earned break, be sure to relax in The Kitchen, our new family-friendly restaurant with unrivalled views across the Sanctuary and the sea. Serving high quality locally sourced hot and cold food, including hearty breakfasts and a varied children’s menu as well as drinks, snacks, cream teas and cakes from 9am - 5pm daily.

Don’t worry if you run out of time, The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth is open 9am - dusk, 365 days a year. It holds events and open days throughout the year and all proceeds go towards The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the community and worldwide.

Find out more about The Sanctuary’s events at www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/events

A happier and healthier future in Portugal

18 July 2017

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

The Association for the Study and Protection of Donkeys, translated from Associação para o Estudo e Protecção do Gado Asinino (AEPGA), is an independent Portuguese donkey charity which receives funding from The Donkey Sanctuary to support their community programme and donkey rescue centre.

The association’s main initiatives funded by The Donkey Sanctuary are:

  • Community medicine outreach to improve the welfare and health of donkeys in the area.
  • Providing a sanctuary for retired or abandoned donkeys.

The association’s other main initiative not funded by The Donkey Sanctuary is:

  • Promoting and protecting the native donkeys of Miranda.

I was fortunate enough to spend five days here, working at the Sanctuary which houses elderly and abandoned donkeys, and engaging in the community outreach work. As I have discussed the sanctuary work of the Spanish sanctuaries, I will focus on the community outreach work I experienced in North Portugal.

I was very excited to observe and assist the community outreach work done by the AEPGA. This crucial aspect of animal welfare is so inextricably linked to helping the communities which depend upon these stoic animals, and I was keen to learn about the rewards and difficulties of this work.

Firstly, let us discuss the owners. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people I met in Miranda; I was offered copious amounts of bread, wine and cheese, despite being a stranger to them, purely by merit of association with the AEPGA. This, in and of itself, was very heartening; it showed the profound respect which people had for the efforts of the organisation. Many of the owners we met had great knowledge of and concern for their animals; one elderly couple who owned two donkeys were very distressed by one of their donkeys having a wound which had become infected by a parasite, and were quick to call the vets for help. Another owner was happy to forego traditional methods of treating eye issues (applying the white part of the faeces of a local lizard), instead, embracing the advice of the AEPGA vets to treat ulcers in a more medically-substantiated way. At this point, I must address the attitude of the vets, with whom I had the privilege of working. Despite the intense heat, they worked tirelessly, and with communication skills which enabled them to convince owners of the benefits of their suggested methods; they were able to educate, not castigate, owners, and work towards a happier, healthier future for the animals. In my experience, owners were receptive to the advice of the vets; I believe that this is due to the mutual decision making and considerate discussion afforded by the veterinarians. I learnt a lot during my experience here, but perhaps most crucially of all, I learnt how vital it is to communicate concepts of health and welfare in an effective and well-received manner.

Often when discussing the work of The Donkey Sanctuary and working equid charities, people brandish words such as the “ignorance” in reference to owners. I find that such an attitude teeters dangerously close to moral and cultural imperialism; owners should not be expected to have veterinary medical degrees, nor to be aware of all new pioneering treatments available for their animals. Such language is seldom, if ever, used in discussion about the British horse owner population; one should not chastise a British horse owner for not knowing the intricacies of Cushing’s disease, nor should one chastise the owner of a working mule owner for not knowing that their teeth, unlike ours, need to be regularly rasped. Education is the role of the vet; for the work of the AEPGA, conveying that traditional methods of medicine now have more successful contemporaries is of vital importance. If I have learned anything here, it is that instilling a passion for animal welfare is the most important message which equine charities can convey to owners; details of what to treat their animals for will then follow.

One way in which AEPGA encouraged a passion for animal welfare was by public engagement in a fun way. The Donkey Sanctuary works ceaselessly to increase the status of the donkey worldwide. However, a novel approach to this which I experienced at the AEPGA was in promoting the endangered breed, the autochthonous and adorable Miranda donkeys. It is hard not to instantly be distracted by the incredibly fluffy, blue-eyed foals trotting in the fields of the AEPGA, however, one must look to the core importance behind these breeding initiatives; to increase the status of the humble donkey. Here, they have a phrase: “Burros há muitos, mas estes estão extinção”; “there are many donkeys, but these ones are going extinct”; one of the vets informed me this was to remind the people in the community that whilst there are many donkeys in the world, this rare breed would have disappeared, were it not for interventions of the AEPGA. Similarly to the Poitou, the Miranda donkey has long, dark brown hair with lighter aspects ventrally, a thick neck and a broad head. They have very large canon bones in the lower limb, and are much larger than the donkeys I met in Sidmouth; to me, they are the maxi-cobs of the donkey world! The AEPGA engages in a number of community-based activities to increase the status of the donkey, marrying traditional roles with contemporary concern for the animal’s well-being. One such activity is a walk between villages with the donkeys, and local skilled musicians playing the bagpipes. These fun events engage the public with these gentle giants, as well as encouraging interest in their significance as a cultural cornerstone in Miranda. The success of the breeding programme is tangible in the increase in numbers of the Miranda donkey; however, the intangible benefits of respect for and interest in these beautiful animals holds huge significance.

I will now share with you my experiences of the medical conditions I saw in Portugal. I have a keen interest in dentistry hence why I was delighted to find that this was a shared love with one of the vets. When performing health and welfare assessments, along with assessments of breed quality for the Miranda donkeys, the vets routinely checked teeth. I saw many dental problems which were more severe than I’d witnessed in practice before. Every case was carefully and attentively examined and treated, and the importance of routine dental work conveyed to the owners. Another pivotal aspect of routine health care in donkeys is feet; personally, I have never seen such over-grown feet in some of these working donkeys. As the lengths approached what I would classify as “slippers”, I was truly shocked that these animals were capable of agricultural work. However, the vets once more conveyed the importance of routine farriery, and were reassured by owners that this would be addressed. These routine treatments highlighted the developments in this region, whereby owners can recognise compromised health and welfare in their animals, as many were in wonderful health.

To conclude, my experiences at the AEGPA were wholly positive. I was privileged to see the skill of vets here applied both in medicine and communication. I was able to engage with novel medical cases, as well as community work. Finally, I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand the efforts to preserve a beautiful breed and increase the status of these “beasts of burden”. On my return to England, checking up on the events of Facebook at the airport, I was disheartened to see pictures of 2 people I know, fully grown adults, riding a little mule in the Italian sunshine, up a hill. The Donkey Sanctuary has made immense improvements to the welfare of so many animals globally. However, it is evident that its work is not done; animals in tourism, agriculture and domestic pets continue to suffer, and I am honoured to have played a small part in the profound impact which this charity achieves.

Related articles: Donkey Sanctuary BVA Travel Grant: Fuente de PiedraDona Rosa - seeing the lives of rescued donkeys

Dona Rosa - seeing the lives of rescued donkeys

18 July 2017

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

The feature of The Donkey Sanctuary’s work which I’ve always found the most inspiring is their work with working equids, improving the lives of those dependent upon them financially, and giving a quality of life and security of health to these hard-working “beasts of burden”. In Spain, I have had the pleasure of exploring another side of their work; sanctuary work. Dona Rosa is the larger of the two Sanctuaries in Spain. Whilst it is always difficult to hear stories of abuse, I am astounded once more by the work of The Donkey Sanctuary in alleviating suffering in animals. I was told of one donkey’s ordeal; he was abandoned, tied tightly by the side of a road, and unable to fend for himself. Watching this donkey boss its way from hay rack to hay rack, pushing donkeys twice his size out of the way only to decide it isn’t quite up to his taste, it is truly heart-warming to see the tangibility of the efforts of this global organisation to ensure no donkey suffers. The vigilant feeding, weighing, body-condition scoring, vet and farrier visits, field-maintenance and grooming which goes on here certainly enables these lovely individuals to experience a quality of life which many animals will never know. In short, sanctuary life here is made a blissful existence by the organisation’s endeavours.

Within the Sanctuary, the animals receive a high quality of care in life and in death. One thing resounds among all people who work with donkeys; the inquisitive and humble nature of our long-eared friends is so endearing that euthanasia will always be an emotionally strenuous ordeal. During my time here, one elderly donkey was put to sleep for uncontrollable arthritic pain. It is reassuring to see throughout all sanctuaries that the donkey’s welfare is the utmost priority; when pain can be medicated, it is; when the donkey’s life is dominated by uncontrollable pain, the cessation of pain is the priority. The grooms reassure me that they will be keeping a close eye on the deceased donkey’s closest friend, a small, white donkey, for signs of serious medical conditions associated with donkeys grieving, which can prove fatal.

Dona Rosa has given me wonderful exposure into the workings of a large sanctuary, and I look forward to experiencing the work of the The Association for the Study and Protection of Donkeys, Portugal (AEGPA) in Portugal this week.

Related articles: Donkey Sanctuary BVA Travel Grant: Fuente de Piedra

Donkeys left to suffer after owner failed to trim their hooves

17 July 2017

A man who failed to trim his donkeys’ overgrown hooves, leading three of them to suffer in pain, has been fined by magistrates.

James Derek Pickford (DOB 30/01/1935), of Lowe Hill, in Leek, Staffordshire, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to three donkeys and failing to meet the needs of seven donkeys following a trial at North Staffordshire Justice Centre this week.

The court heard that the RSPCA had been in contact with Pickford before, and had given advice and warning notices on a number of occasions regarding his donkeys’ overgrown hooves, however the problem continued.

Hannah Bryer, senior welfare adviser 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 seven donkeys in this case had significantly overgrown and imbalanced hooves. These changes caused undue stresses and strains on the joints and soft tissues of the limb. Three of the donkeys were suffering chronic pain as a result.

'This suffering could have been easily avoided with proper and routine farrier care. 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.

'When the donkeys came into our care last May we found out that five of them were in foal. Since then we have worked closely with a vet and farrier to ensure they were ready to welcome five healthy foals into the world.

'We are grateful to the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Staffordshire Police, and North Staffordshire Council for their efforts in this case and are pleased to able to provide these donkeys with a safe and secure future.’

Inspector Charlotte Melvin said: ‘Their hooves were x-rayed and these x-rays showed that three of the donkeys were suffering from a great deal of pain, as their pedal bone - one of the bones in their feet - had rotated as a result. This would have made them very uncomfortable and led to suffering.

“Equines require a lot of specialist care and it is important to remember that people who have animals have a responsibility to look after them properly, and ensure they receive the proper veterinary treatment and care when they need it.’

Magistrates ordered Pickford to pay £2,250 in costs, a £240 fine and a £30 victim surcharge.

The donkeys are now in the care of the Donkey Sanctuary.

Caring for Donkeys in Ethiopia

12 July 2017

Renata Harper is a South African freelance environmental writer and editor with a passion for wild spaces. She celebrates our planet, and its creatures and keepers, through writing and other creative media. She recently visited our project in Bahir Dar in Ethiopia.

Most tourists visit Bahir Dar for its setting on the southern shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile, and because the town makes for a convenient base to explore the monasteries and churches on the lake’s islands and shores. I’ve chosen instead to spend a few days observing the incredible work of The Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia (DSE).

My partner and I are at the end of a three-week trip around the northern half of the country – never enough time to get to know a place or its peoples properly, but sufficient to understand the essential role that donkeys play in the average Ethiopian family’s life.

Unfortunately we have also witnessed some distressing cases of neglect and mistreatment of both donkeys and mules. 'It shocks us too, but what we see is a reason to act,' says project manager and veterinarian Dr Tewodros Mekonnen, when I pop into DSE’s humble office in Bahir Dar.

There are approximately 7 million donkeys in Ethiopia - 2.4 million in the Amhara region. Donkeys generally transport grain, farm produce, firewood and water, though we have also seen them carrying construction material (in Lalibela) and salt blocks (alongside camels, in the blinding salt lakes of the Danakil Depression).

'It’s safe to say there is almost no donkey in Ethiopia that’s not working,' explains Dr Mekonnen. 'The donkey plays a critical role in the livelihoods of countless Ethiopians, particularly women and children. If a family has no donkey, the woman will do much of the carrying. This is why the DSE works to protect donkeys and secure livelihoods.'

Two hours later we’re on our way to the village of Fereswoga, and to what is considered one of the most successful and well-integrated DSE projects in the Amhara region. 'That’s one of ours!' says Nahom Wagaw, animal health and welfare extension officer, pointing at a young man whose donkey is sporting one of DSE’s prototype pack saddles. 'That’s the kind of positive impact we can make.'

A pack saddle is the saddle on which goods are placed on a donkey’s back; a humane pack saddle is a simple but effective way to promote donkey welfare. Made from affordable local materials (fertiliser sack, sisal ropes and a hessian sack or blanket), the DSE saddle greatly improves the lives of its wearers. The inner fabric is heat and sweat absorbent (which reduces chafing and the risk of sores) and a gap down the centre of the saddle protects the animal’s spine (loads should never sit directly on an animal’s backbone).

Forty minutes later we arrive at Gubrit Primary School, our first stop in Fereswoga. Supporting humane education in schools is another – and arguably the most important – way to secure a brighter future for Ethiopia’s working equines. With support from the regional education bureau, the DSE’s colourful educational book, Animal Welfare Education for School Children, is distributed to 12 primary schools in Amhara, to be used in class and by animal welfare clubs.

About 1,750 pupils in the region pass through this educational programme, and about 60 school teachers receive training annually from the DSE around animal welfare issues. 'We use poems and drama to encourage and internalise empathy,' explains principal Andualem Bekele, who is also an active member of the community’s volunteer-based Animal Welfare Committee. 'Kids then go home and teach their families and neighbours.'

One of his students, Getaneh (11), whose family has three donkeys, confirms this: 'I tell my family what I learn about donkeys.' Yibeltal (10) concurs: 'I show my family how to care for the donkeys; then they listen.'

'Schools like this are a key agent for change,' says Dagne Yiradu, community partnership and education officer and my interpreter for the day. 'Children have a high attachment to their animals and take easily to the idea of animal welfare.'

Next we visit Fereswoga’s humble equine accessories centre, a one-roomed establishment from which Tewachew Shiferaw (25) and Getenet Wubie (28), both physically disabled, manufacture pack saddles – like the one we’d witnessed earlier – and cart harnesses to sell to their own and neighbouring communities.

The DSE has trained 45 harness makers in the region, who also have the capacity to train others. 'Our focus is to help them diversify and to create cooperatives of harness makers, donkey/mule accessory manufacturers and even beekeepers,' explains Yiradu. 'By diversifying their skills and working together, they have a greater chance of success.'

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges faced by the DSE team, though, is the longstanding cultural perception, partly backed by religious beliefs, around donkeys as “impure”, weak or stupid. This leads to the animals being low on the livestock hierarchy and open to neglect or abuse. 'We have a vision to inspire compassion,' says Dr Mekonnen, 'even if this change comes slowly.'

The commitment of Dr Mekonnen and his team reminds me of the importance of perseverance; of doing good work for a better future that may be beyond our lifetime, but always remaining open to the possibility that it might come sooner than we expected.

Donkey skin trade concerns presented to Australian government

11 July 2017

Campaigners from The Donkey Sanctuary and the RSPCA Australia have been in Darwin in the Northern Territory this week, talking to government officials about the donkey skin trade and an emerging threat to wild donkeys in the country.

Australian donkeys are at risk from the growing global trade that is wiping out populations of working and wild animals, devastating impoverished communities, and causing widespread animal suffering.

Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary, joined RSPCA Australia's senior policy officer, Dr Jed Goodfellow, in Darwin to share evidence with the Northern Territories Government of the dangers of the donkey skin trade, as outlined in the charity's Under The Skin report.

Alex said: 'Donkeys are sensitive and curious animals that have lived and worked alongside humans for centuries. Consider their importance and symbolism in Christianity, for example, as well as their role in Australian military history, especially Simpson and his donkey.

'However, these gentle animals are now facing an increasing risk from a growing trade in skin and meat, driven largely by demand from China for traditional medicine.

'This demand has led to a burgeoning illegal trade in donkeys throughout Asia, Africa and South America, with much-needed working animals regularly stolen, and wild populations decimated throughout the region by poaching.'

Working alongside The Donkey Sanctuary, the RSPCA in Australia believes the donkey skin trade - in both its legal and illegal forms – represents unacceptable animal risks, and hopes to work with the NT Government to rule it out.

Dr Goodfellow said: 'While many countries around the world are wisely banning the export of donkey skins, as a result of the risks, there has been some suggestion this trade could be leveraged in the Northern Territory, and that’s not a good idea.

'In order to meet the demands of the trade, donkeys sourced from Australia would need to be rounded up and trucked from the wild or farmed in vast numbers, and neither idea has much merit.

'Wild donkey populations tend to live in extremely remote and inaccessible areas, which makes them notoriously difficult to reach, and Donkey farming - which may sound like a viable solution - is also fraught with problems.'

In June, RSPCA Australia launched a Senate petition calling for a permanent ban on the live export of ponies, horses and donkeys. Already the petition has been signed by more than 21,000 Australians, while the Senate has since passed a motion in support of a ban.

Find out more about The Donkey Sanctuary's Under The Skin report and what is being done to tackle the situation.

Spicing things up with donkey enrichment

6 July 2017

"We love our donkeys so much; what can we do to show our love for them? We want to do more."

For a donkey welfare adviser to be asked this from a Donkey Guardian about their rehomed donkeys is the best question of all.

A hug may be your first response - and yes, they do love a hug and a scratch - but donkeys need so much more than being shown a human form of love.

How about enrichment, stimulation and understanding? These are all key parts to fulfilling a donkey’s life.

Made-Well, in West Devon is a community interest company, providing purposeful and positive opportunities for people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health diagnosis.

They are caring for three beautiful donkeys called Cassy, Maeve and Niamh who have now been with them for 10 months. In this time they have all grown together in confidence and flourished in the understanding of each other’s needs.

Made-Well plant and nurture their own vegetables and herbs, which is just as well, as donkeys benefit greatly from the use of herbs and spices as a form of sensory enrichment - it is not just taste that can occupy a donkey but also smell.

Our sense of smell is maybe something we all take for granted; to smell a floral scent of a sweet rose or the fresh sea air are my personal favourites, donkeys also love to use this key sense of smell to promote enrichment. Herbs and spices are a perfect way to take them back to their origin of a hot and scented climate.

Before the donkeys enjoy their sensory enrichment they first take part in some physical enrichment. They are taken out on a walk to Made-Well's beautiful herb and veg garden which are all planted in high raise beds - perfect donkey head height for the girls to select their favourite herbs.

After the herbs have been selected and picked they all return to set up the donkeys' Animal Magic enrichment session. The herbs are then scattered on the ground and logs are sprinkled with spices. Cassy, Maeve and Niamh get to reap the benefits from their morning walk by relishing in the array of scent.

Robyn and Emma who run the Animal Magic sessions at Made-Well explains: 'We notice what our donkeys do for our clients every day; they give so much and have amazed us at their seeming understanding of everyone’s challenges. Using the herbs and spices has given us an opportunity to stand back and observe our girls' behaviour, offering a little window into their world, observing them making choices just as we do ourselves.

'The study at the Birmingham sanctuary recently found the donkeys showed each other what they had discovered but our girls were keen to show us humans - hence the paprika covered nose pics! There is a great deal of yawning and rolling which makes for very amusing watching - I’m not sure who enjoys these sessions more, the girls or us.”

Understanding your donkey’s needs is a key part in fulfilling their lives by using innovative ways to nurture physical and sensory enrichment.

Statue installed at Chinese zoo where donkey was mauled by tigers

4 July 2017

A zoo in China where a donkey was pushed into a tiger enclosure and mauled to death has erected a statue in its memory.

The 'Unnamed Donkey' monument was installed outside the pit where a donkey was tipped in with the tigers last month by an angry shareholder involved in a dispute with the safari attraction.

An accompanying sign reads: 'I was born in the country on the farm. I should have grown up to have children and enjoy life on earth. This monument is calling for justice. I died in vain and should be remembered.'

A video of the incident caused outrage on social media and thousands backed The Donkey Sanctuary's letter to the zoo - and the charity continues to push for a response.

Dawn Vincent, head of communications at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: 'The images of the terrified donkey will live long in the memories of the 23,000 people who signed our petition calling on the zoo to ensure this never happens again.

'Neither they nor the Chinese Embassy have responded to that petition but we shall continue to request that they do. This monument is a sad reminder of a truly dreadful act of animal welfare abuse against an innocent victim.

'The outpouring of global anger against the incident is a reminder that animal abuse can never be condoned or tolerated.'

The Donkey Sanctuary is awaiting a response to the letter it wrote on behalf of the thousands of people who signed a petition seeking assurances from the zoo around the prevention of future incidents.

New protests and export bans as opposition grows to donkey skin trade

30 June 2017

Opposition to the donkey skin trade is escalating by the day in Africa, with street protests from donkey owners in Kenya and the Government of Botswana banning the export of donkey products.

The huge demand from China for a traditional medicine called ejiao, made from donkey skins, is resulting in donkey-dependent communities around the world being targeted by skin traders, with a legal trade being supplemented by an illegal trade in stolen and slaughtered donkeys.

With rural communities in Kenya, who rely on working animals for their independence and livelihoods, fighting back with street protests against the trade, a strongly-worded statement from the Botswana Government announced that the escalating trade in donkey skin exports to China has been halted owing to ‘The indiscriminate and cruel slaughter of donkeys for their hides which are exported to lucrative markets in Asia.’

The move has been hailed as ‘highly significant’ by The Donkey Sanctuary, which is leading efforts to halt the trade, and follows similar moves from both Ethiopia and Tanzania.

A delegation from The Donkey Sanctuary met with the Botswana Government in April 2017 to present the findings of their investigations into the trade and the serious impact that it was having on the livelihoods of donkey-dependent communities.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security in Botswana said: 'All export licenses relating to donkeys and their products for export purposes is suspended indefinitely with immediate effect.’

In recognition of the scale and damage that the illegal trade was having on donkey-dependent communities, the spokesman urged farmers to ‘stay vigilant, keep a close eye on the donkeys and report any suspicious illegal trade on live donkey, donkey meat and donkey hides to the nearest government officials.’

In Kenya, peaceful, grassroots protests by donkey owners have been taking place over the past few weeks, with the most recent held in Ongata Rongai, south-west of Nairobi.

The Kenya Veterinary Association have also held peaceful street demonstrations in Nairobi, concerned about the harm and insecurity the unregulated trade is causing to communities.

Other protests, with as many as 300 people, have taken place in Molo and Narok Town which are close to the controversial donkey slaughterhouse in Naivasha.

This facility, which since November 2016 has slaughtered 200 donkeys a day for their skins, was closed down by the authorities on 30 May following an investigation by Donkey Sanctuary Kenya.

As part of this undercover exposé, Donkey Sanctuary Kenya staff took photos, described by animal welfare experts as ‘sickening’, showing dead or dying donkeys lying in filth and being eaten alive by maggots, as well as dead, skinned donkeys left alongside other donkeys waiting for slaughter.

Despite the protests and fears of donkey owners, it was announced this week that a new slaughterhouse in Turkana County will be home to Kenya’s third donkey abattoir. The Zilzha Ltd slaughterhouse at Nakwaalele will process donkey meat and hides for export to China after having been built at a cost of Kenyan Sh200 million (UK £1.5 million).

In a Kenyan news report this week, local resident Peter Lolem, said: ‘Our donkeys are in danger. The number of donkeys being slaughtered daily is high and it is a threat to our nomadic way of life. The donkey is the only means of transport.’

Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary said: ‘The Kenyan Government needs to follow the lead taken by Botswana and call time on this unregulated, unsustainable trade. The sickening images recorded at the Naivasha slaughterhouse show that the fears of many people and communities about the fate of their donkeys is very real.

‘Through their peaceful but powerful protests they are making their voices heard and the message is very clear - “Hands off our Donkeys”’.

While Africa is a focus for donkey skin traders, demand is so great that more countries globally are being targeted.

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

Read more about what The Donkey Sanctuary is doing to combat the trade alongside its partners.

Help our donkey assisted therapy mobile team

29 June 2017

Location: Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, North London area

Do you have what it takes?

We are looking for some very special individuals who would love to help support our donkey assisted interaction team to deliver tailored sessions and activities for children and vulnerable adults with additional needs. These sessions are held in a safe and stimulating environment, usually within schools, equestrian centres, care and hospice site in the Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, North London area.

Are you happy to be flexible in the roles you help us with? Do you love talking to people? Do you have good equine skills or the willingness to improve your current knowledge on how to work with our wonderful donkeys? Do you feel confident to work around the donkeys and people with additional needs?

You would be flexible in your approach to the roles we would like your support with, these could include supporting children and adults handling and leading donkeys, equine assisted learning, a range of donkey care activities enabling children and adults to ‘meet and greet’ the donkeys in a safe, fun and interactive way and preparing the donkeys for their sessions. Acting as an ambassador for The Donkey Sanctuary will come naturally, joining us to share our passion for the work we carry out, with a love of donkeys and an appreciation for the value of our equine assisted learning programme (we will provide training on this for you).

Skills and personal experience

We would love for you to have experience and confidence around equines and people with additional needs, you would feel confident to be around our donkeys, assisting them with their interaction session under the supervision of the project leader. We will offer you full training; you will be willing to learn about the care and behaviour of donkeys to enable you to carry out this role and support our equine assisted learning and interaction sessions. You will be happy to engage with the wide variety of people that you will meet.

We are looking for team players who have the ability to work independently if required. With sound customer service skills, your ability to communicate well with people in a friendly and welcoming way will come naturally and you will enjoy promoting the work of The Donkey Sanctuary. You will be happy to support the ongoing work we do through the mobile donkey assisted interaction project and help provide our service to vulnerable adults and children with additional needs. This can be a demanding role and it is important that you consider both the physical and mental demands of this role (we can chat about this when we meet). You will ensure you follow strict health and safety standards and demonstrate good attention to detail.

Due to the mobile aspect of this project and the varied locations of these session, where required volunteers will be happy to travel as well as volunteer outside in our unpredictable British weather!

Times and preferred duration of commitment

We are looking to cover mostly weekdays, between our core hours of 9.30am - 3pm; and occasional weekends/evenings.

We are very flexible regarding days of the week, number of days a month but volunteers must be available for our core hours.

Join us today

If you have some spare time, and would like to find out about how you could become more involved in our work, we would love to hear from you.

We would love for you to come to us with experience and confidence of working with equines and people with additional needs.

However, don’t worry if you have no previous experience as training is provided. If you are aged 16 or over, are enthusiastic and have regular free time you can offer us, then please get in touch. If you would like to find out more information about volunteering with our mobile interaction team in this role please call the Kelly Fox, Mobile Interaction and Donkey Assisted Therapy Training Facilitator on 07921 463999 or send an email to us.

Alternatively, if you are ready to apply for this volunteer role at The Donkey Sanctuary, we would love for you to complete the online application form.

Apply online

New start for Spanish donkey with overgrown feet

28 June 2017

When a Good Samaritan in Spain discovered a neglected donkey who could barely walk, there was a team of people ready to spring into action.

The Donkey Sanctuary's Spanish rescue centre, El Refugio del Burrito, were alerted to the plight of the stricken donkey who they now know as Jasmin.

Thought to have been abandoned and roaming for 13 years, Jasmin survived on river water and long grass she found nearby in Cordoba - but the lack of treatment had left Jasmin with grossly overgrown hooves.

Rosa Chaparro, from El Refugio del Burrito, said: 'A citizen called us about the worrying situation of this donkey because she could barely walk.

'When we found her, we couldn't believe our eyes - we have never had such a case.'

Jasmin was taken to the sanctuary, and following x-rays to ensure that her bones were ok, the expert farrier proceeded to spend two hours trimming her hooves.

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

The battle for donkey welfare continues

23 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles: Eric and Jasper hitch a lift

Donkey Sanctuary BVA Travel Grant: Fuente de Piedra

23 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragedy strikes on Good Friday

14 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

External links: Could you rehome a donkey?

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

14 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exhausted mule of El Rocio

13 June 2017

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

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

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

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

Watch her story unfold

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

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

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

The difficult decision was made to put her to sleep.

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

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

Father and son appear in court over donkey neglect

13 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

El Rocio 2017

8 June 2017

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

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

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

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