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International animal welfare charity, based in the UK, working to protect and care for donkeys and mules.
Updated: 20 min 57 sec ago

Charity convinces eBay to ban ejiao products

15 December 2017

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

Christmas raffle 2017 results

14 December 2017

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

1st prize winner (£5,000)
Winning ticket no:
6187033

2nd prize winner (£1,000)
Winning ticket no:
4302446

3rd prize winner (£200 x 10)
Winning ticket nos:
5055268
6034800
4040485
3048083
6066186
6069684
4075819
5300559
6078697
6053782

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

Charity welcomes Government's animal welfare bill

12 December 2017

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

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

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

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

John Deere tractor stolen from The Donkey Sanctuary

29 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cautious welcome to government u-turn on animal welfare clause

23 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

External links: #lionopera

Help a donkey through the winter weather

22 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adopt A Donkey today

Donkey owners urge others to plan for equine end of life

20 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jasmin's new start

17 November 2017
Newsletter Issue No: 88

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

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

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

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

A Lucky escape

17 November 2017
Newsletter Issue No: 88

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New study shows donkeys need more protection from the winter weather than horses

16 November 2017

A new study from The Donkey Sanctuary shows that donkeys, and to a lesser extent mules, are less able than horses to adapt to colder, wetter climates and therefore require additional protection in the winter to meet their welfare needs.

Since 2015 The Donkey Sanctuary has been working in collaboration with Dr Britta Osthaus, Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University and Dr Leanne Proops, Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, both specialists in animal behaviour and cognition.

The study, Protection from the Elements: A comparative study of shelter use, hair density and heat loss, aims to provide the first scientific assessment of the extent to which donkeys require protection from the elements across the range of environmental conditions typically experienced in the British Isles.

The findings from the first part of the project are now published in the Equine Veterinary Journal. It reports how measurements of the insulation properties of the hair samples (weight, length and thickness) indicate that donkeys’ coats do not change significantly across the seasons and that their coats were significantly lighter, shorter and thinner than that of horses and mules in winter. In contrast the coats of horses and ponies changed significantly between seasons, growing much thicker in winter.

Dr Faith Burden, director of research at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “For many years it has been the ‘common sense’ advice given by The Donkey Sanctuary to ensure that donkeys and mules are given the right protection from our cold winters. This study now provides us with scientific evidence to show why the welfare needs of donkeys and mules differ slightly to those of horses and ponies, and how we can act to give them better protection from the elements.”

Further publications from the project are planned, looking at heat loss and the behavioural responses of donkeys and horses to different weather conditions.

The full article, published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, is available online (see below).

External links: Equine Veterinary JournalPowerpoint presentation

Basil: A very special donkey

16 November 2017

This is a dedication to a very special donkey called Basil. While it is very hard to play favourites with the donkeys at the sanctuary as they all have their own special characteristics and charm, there are some that just quietly creep into your heart and before you know it you’re smitten.

Basil was one of those donkeys for me. In my role as a veterinary nurse, I used to be in charge of administering medication to the groups of donkeys around Slade and Trow farms. We used to have a group on a very steep hill in order to help them exercise. I had a donkey that quite frankly could have done with wandering down the hill every day for her meds, but never the less used to make me walk all the way to the top, while constantly hiccupping at me excitedly, knowing a jam sandwich was coming. This was Basil’s best friend and how I came to meet him.

He got to know the timing of my daily rounds and would follow me, up and down the hill. It was like that scene from Shrek, where every time I turned around he would be there, practically fluttering his eyelashes to see if he could get a sandwich too. Now Basil, like myself, only had to look at food to put on weight, so he was never given a treat (with the exception of Christmas of course) but still his tenacity reigned.

Eventually his infectious personality was noticed by more than just me and he was moved to shelter 1 where he could help with our outreach activities and meet the public. He did himself and us proud once given the opportunity, and before he knew it he was attending weddings (including one of our very own vet nurse’s), being filmed for children’s TV and being an ambassador for our junior vet days. He was the epitome of patience on these days, letting all manner of things be done to him, like having a look in his mouth, bandaging his legs and even letting me take his temperature without a second thought. Of course he was always rewarded in his favourite way: cuddles and ginger biscuits.

That’s why it was a real blow when one of the dentists flagged up an anomaly on one of his routine dentals, and after some investigation he was diagnosed as having a tumour growing in his mandible. The vet decided he was the kind of donkey that would cope with a new type of treatment, and like a trooper he proved he was up to the task. The treatment was successful and stopped the growth of the tumour in its tracks.

So Basil went back to being the superb teacher that he was. Unfortunately for me, the grooms took on the medication rounds at the farms, and coupled with the hospital's exciting move to Brookfield Farm it meant that I didn’t see Basil as much, but I would always pop in for a cuddle when I could and kept an eye on his remission on his computer notes. But a few weeks ago after one of his regular mouth checks, the vet reported that the tumour had started to grow again, and that no more could be done.

He was given pain relief and everyone was given the chance to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking as he was still in such good spirits, even though you could see he was uncomfortable. He gave me the best cuddle and when I shouted goodbye over the fence he threw up his top lip in salute. Forever the showman!

I want to thank everybody that was involved with Basil’s peaceful passing, but I mostly want to thank Basil for being such an extraordinary donkey and bringing so much to so many people.

Written by Vicky Banfield, one of our vet nurses.

The Donkey Sanctuary and Ghana SPCA urge government to enforce ban on slaughter and export of donkey skins

26 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary, which is leading the efforts to draw worldwide attention to the trade in donkey skins for the use in traditional Chinese remedies, is in Ghana with Ghana SPCA to urge law enforcement bodies to immediately enforce the ban on the slaughter and export of donkey skins that was passed at the beginning of the year.

On 17 January 2017 the Ministry of Food and Agriculture authorised a ban on the slaughter and export of donkey skins from Ghana. Worrying evidence suggests that the law is not being enforced, even though the Veterinary Services Directorate has publicly said: “The Veterinary Services Directorate has observed with alarm, a sharp increase in the number of donkeys being slaughtered on a daily basis especially in the northern parts of the country. At this rate, the population is likely to be depleted within two to three years.”

They continued: “The Veterinary Services Directorate has therefore decided to ban with immediate effect, the indiscriminate slaughter of donkeys and the export of their skins. All Regional Veterinary Officers are to ensure that this directive is strictly complied with. Anybody caught in defying this directive will be strictly dealt with.”

Both The Donkey Sanctuary and Ghana SPCA are in strong agreement that if this law is not upheld then the welfare of donkeys and Ghana’s poorest citizens who rely on donkeys for farming activities and the transportation of goods (especially in rural areas) are going to be affected in a catastrophic way.

Alex Mayers, head of programmes, at The Donkey Sanctuary, who is in Ghana says: “From evidence we have seen in recent days, donkeys are being slaughtered on a huge scale in northern Ghana for their skins. We have seen horrific evidence that the welfare of donkeys is compromised at all stages in the trade including transport, holding and slaughter.

"With only an estimated 14,500 donkeys in Ghana (according to FAOSTAT), even 100 donkeys being slaughtered per day would mean the entire population will be gone in six months. Imagine the devastation for the thousands of people who rely on donkeys for water, ploughing and rural transport.”

Alex continued: “The species cannot be farmed at scale and the unchecked free-flow of donkeys coming from neighbouring countries to fill the demand creates serious disease-transmission concerns and additional welfare challenges. We celebrate the forward-thinking, progressive and timely ban on the export of donkey skins, but more urgently needs to be done to prevent the loss of the species, the spread of disease, and the loss of everything donkeys represent for rural Ghanaians.”

There is an unsustainable rise in the slaughter of donkeys for the skin trade - largely due to growing demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine which uses the gelatin found in donkey hides for products alleged to offer anti-ageing properties.

With skin supply unable to meet demand, criminal traders, including some linked to wildlife trafficking, have resorted to stealing working donkeys, and are selling their skins for premium prices to the ejiao industry.

As well as sourcing, transporting and slaughtering these animals inhumanely, they are causing devastation to the people who depend on these domestic animals for their livelihood.

The Donkey Sanctuary and The University of Milan launch new guidelines for dairy donkeys

26 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary and The University of Milan has today (Thursday 26 October) present new Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys: good animal management practices for donkey milk production to the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The publication of the new Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys concludes a two year research project looking at welfare, legislation and safety issues of milk farming. The project was led by Dr Faith Burden, Director - Research & Operational Support at The Donkey Sanctuary and Dr Michela Minero and Dr Francesca Dai of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at The University of Milan.

Dr Faith Burden, Director - Research & Operational Support at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “Donkey milk farming is a new industry and one that is largely unregulated around the world. While our charity does not encourage donkey milk farming, we know the trade exists and is growing - so we expect only the highest welfare principals to be adhered to by those in the industry to protect the donkeys.

"Through our extensive research with The University of Milan focusing on donkey milk farming in Italy, we know that very little guidance existed, therefore we have now contributed to these stakeholder led guidelines that can help ensure high levels of donkey welfare are a priority for the industry.

"Now both the novice and experienced donkey milk farmer can ensure high welfare standards for their donkeys, and governments and potential regulators can begin to implement the guidelines to lead to change across the world."

Dr Michela Minero, of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at The University of Milan, says: “There is a real need for Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys and we will work together with stakeholders on their implementation to make sure they are effective and can improve the welfare of donkeys.”

Donkey milk farming is a growing sector, especially in parts of Continental Europe, where donkey milk is used as a cow’s milk substitute for allergic infants and is prized as a cosmetic ingredient.

Whilst some donkeys involved in the rapidly expanding dairy industry are well looked after, The Donkey Sanctuary wants to champion and ensure good donkey welfare for all.

The publication of these new guidelines are designed to provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for sustainable donkey milk production and recommend practical solutions for their implementation. The Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys will be available in the following languages: English, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, French, Spanish and Portuguese (LA).

Dr Michela Minero presented the new guidelines to 20 MEPs from across Europe at 10am on Thursday 26 October.

AttachmentSize Dairy donkeys: good animal management practices for donkey milk production1.74 MB

The right call at the right time

17 October 2017

You may have read the sad news about our gorgeous, feisty little donkey, Gareth, recently. You may even recall when we had to let you know that our fabulously handsome gentleman donkey, Teddy, had been put to sleep.

The response to the news in both cases has been extraordinary and shows how much you all care for the donkeys that you know (and, to know is to love) and may have been to visit.

Gareth and Teddy were high profile donkeys here – world famous thanks to the power of the internet. However, we have around 2,600 donkeys living with us on our farms in Devon and Dorset - less famous but equally important - and I wanted to let you know a bit about one of the most important parts of the work done by our amazing donkey care team on a day to day basis. Life and death decisions which were epitomised in the cases of Gareth and Teddy.

The day-to-day work of our team of vets is treating common ailments such as an eye infection or a foot abscess, or even surgery to remove skin tumours. This is the easy stuff.

However, inevitably our donkeys age and, sadly, some become seriously ill. This is where our thoughts turn to the all important quality of life. Our grooms know every donkey they look after so well that they are quick to spot a subtle decline in the health or happiness of individual donkeys under their care.

Each of our vets are responsible for a farm and we are called in to give the donkey a thorough health check and try to find out what is wrong. We may diagnose a degenerative condition such as arthritis or a failing liver. Treatment is instituted and we are always over the moon if it seems to work.

But we are already on the alert and keep an extra watchful eye on the donkey even to the extent of keeping a diary record of his or her progress. Despite treatment, is the donkey lying down more or lying down less? Is he or she no longer interacting with their friends, are they less interested in their food?

We get together and discuss the donkey in depth – are there more bad days than good? Is there anything else we can offer in the way of treatment?
It is at this stage that we will decide if euthanasia is the best option in the welfare interests of the donkey.

If we cannot restore health and happiness to that donkey then the last and best thing we can do is to euthanise. This decision is never taken lightly and does not get easier but we are confident that we make the decision at the right time and I consider euthanasia to be one of the best welfare tools in the vet’s toolbox.

Euthanasia here is a peaceful, loving process with the donkey surrounded by their donkey and people friends being fed whatever they love to eat (usually ginger biscuits) and they are not usually even aware of the small needle going in to inject an overdose of anaesthetic.

And that is it – a quick, painless end of a life that was no longer as good as it should be. And that is when we can let our emotions get the better of us for a short while before we have to get on with the day job of caring for all the other donkeys who depend upon us for their health and happiness.

For your support, both in terms of lovely messages and donations, I thank you and, of course, it’s a simple fact that the more money we can raise, the more donkeys we can help.

There are believed to be around 43 million donkeys worldwide and we will not rest until all those donkeys live the sort of good life they deserve.

A guide for owners

The Donkey Sanctuary has produced this video to guide owners through the process of observing their ageing donkeys and would advise on keeping a diary of your donkey’s behaviour to help you assess how things are going.

Court hands ban to neglectful donkey owner

17 October 2017

A man who failed to trim his donkeys’ overgrown hooves has been disqualified from keeping equines for five years, after handing over his animals to The Donkey Sanctuary.

Raymond Grigg (date of birth: 06/06/1948) of Longdogs Lane, Ottery St Mary, Devon, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three donkeys and failing to meet the needs of five donkeys when he appeared at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on Monday (16 October 2017) following a prosecution by the RSPCA.

The donkeys were found to have suffered from prolonged neglect when they were left with chronically overgrown hooves, but following treatment they are now enjoying life in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.

Magistrates also ordered Grigg to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £385 in costs, a £300 fine and a £85 victim surcharge.

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. We would encourage anyone who currently owns or is thinking about acquiring donkeys, to seek advice on how to best meet their welfare needs before taking on the commitment.

“Sadly when our donkey welfare adviser first saw the five donkeys in this case it was obvious that they were need of immediate veterinary care. Some had significantly overgrown hooves, whilst another had suffered a wound to its leg and shoulder which was affecting its ability to walk.

“Following specialist veterinary treatment and investigative tests, the condition of two of the donkeys was such that sadly euthanasia was considered the most humane treatment option.

“Happily with the support of our vets, farriers and farm staff, the other three donkeys have made a good recovery and are living among other donkeys at one of our sanctuaries.

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, Devon and Cornwall Police and St David's Vets in investigating this case and we are happy to provide a safe and secure future for the three donkeys now in our care.”

RSPCA inspector Marie Griffiths said: “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.”

Helping Barbuda's donkeys as Irma raises the bar

12 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway.

In the fourth part of his report from the island, Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary reveals how the damage has affected donkeys and hears from locals caught up in the destruction.

Wednesday 4 October

“An inspection of the airport fence confirmed what we had guessed – not an inch of it was standing, having been comprehensively flattened by the storm. The fact that it was pretty flimsy and rusting hadn’t helped prolong its life, but it meant that donkeys and horses for miles around had been able to wander in and adopt the airport as their own private playground and restaurant.

As we were packing up to go, two friendly firemen drove up and introduced themselves. A small plane was about to land and they needed to check the runway for any debris that might have blown onto it. Not much of anything was working at the airport – the runway lights, which were tough, short columns set into the grass border, had all been ripped out of the ground. There were twisted pieces of metal, bits of roofs and planks with huge nails in them, as well as clothes, shoes and curtains. Just about everything had been scattered around the runway perimeter.

The runway itself was scarred and marked by the debris, although the potholes had been repaired temporarily. Five huge metal containers (the sort you see on ships) had been sitting beside the runway before Irma struck and now no-one could find them. We actually stumbled across one over half a mile away and it had only been stopped because it got wrapped round an obstinate tree.

The firemen were very aware of the donkey issue at the airport, but took it in their stride. Before each plane came in or took off, they drove round the runway in a car, the simple act of which scared the donkeys away. Neither the firemen nor the donkeys saw it as a big deal, although the former were quite interested in short term solutions to dissuade the donkeys and horses from congregating there. We talked about crow scarers and klaxons and they were very open to trying them out. Another good connection made.

We loaded up our equipment, and made our way back to the harbour. It wasn’t a long walk, but it took us to part of the town that seemed to have been most badly affected by the hurricane. A huge truck had been blown over on its side and into someone’s front garden. A herd of goats had taken over someone’s lounge and were variously sleeping on the sofa or absent-mindedly eating it. It was eerily quiet, broken only by the banging of loose tin roofs.

Out of every house spilled the private, personal things that made up the lives of their inhabitants and I felt uncomfortable looking at it, like some voyeuristic snoop. But it felt like I was looking at the end of the world as one of the few people still standing, an unnerving but utterly extraordinary feeling.

Very slowly, Barbudans are returning to their homes. The government lifted the evacuation order last week but people are trickling back, not flooding. They are a proud, resilient people, who see themselves as quite different from their neighbours in Antigua. A small group of them, congregated around some tables, called me over to say hello.

“We knew it was coming,” they said. “It took its time, and then it took off. You just can’t imagine what it was like. We were so scared. We’d been hiding under the sink in the kitchen, but once that went we just held onto each other because there was nothing else to hold onto.”

The hurricane was so powerful that some meteorologists say there should be a rethink on how storm levels are calculated. There are five categories of storm strength and Irma was a five. By way of comparison, the 1987 storm that caused such havoc in the UK had an average wind speed of 50 mph and gusts up to 115 mph. Irma meanwhile registered average 185mph winds with gusts of up to 225 mph.

So Irma has now raised the bar, so to speak, forcing the creation of two new categories above five. It just goes the show the sheer magnitude of what the island’s inhabitants were faced with and why we felt compelled to lend our support.”

If you would like to donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: Barbuda's feral donkeys

Introducing our new Intern

10 October 2017

Hello everyone! My name is Abi Sefton, and I am excited to start at The Donkey Sanctuary as your new intern veterinary surgeon. Thank you everyone for the warm and friendly welcome that I have received so far, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all better.

I was born in Northampton and moved to America as a young kid, and have completed most of my schooling there. I received my Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience with a focus in Biotechnology and Mathematics from the University of Rochester in upstate New York. I then received my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts in Massechusetts. I am now delighted to be returning home.

During my veterinary degree, I concentrated on equine medicine. I worked as a technician at Tuft’s Large Animal Hospital for three years before entering my clinical year, serving mostly horses, with a good number of mules and donkeys as well as the occasional pig and alpaca. During my clinical year I continued to gain equine experience by increasing my knowledge of diagnostic imaging, anesthesia and ambulatory equine practice. I saw a wide range of practice at various clinics throughout America and England.

I am grateful that in my role at The Donkey Sanctuary I am able to give back to these wonderful creatures. During the upcoming year, I am particularly excited about learning more about welfare work both in the UK and abroad, as well as gaining more experience as a primary practitioner. If I have learned anything already, it’s that a donkey is not just a little horse, and I look forward to embracing those differences in the year ahead.

Goodbye to Gareth - King of the Herd

9 October 2017

I need to let you all know that we have had to make the most heartbreaking of decisions for mini adoption donkey, Gareth, gently putting him to sleep this afternoon surrounded by his loving grooms and his best friend, Benji.

He has been giving us cause for concern over the last few months, progressively losing his sight and encountering increasing problems with his hoof. Some donkeys cope well with sight loss, others not so well. Sadly, Gareth was in this latter category and this is why it’s been so challenging to treat his hoof effectively.

Over the past few months he had been slightly lame on one of his front legs and X-rays showed up an infection in his pedal (toe) bone. Despite treatment the infection just wouldn’t go away and we were left with just two options. The first would involve major surgery which would require transport to our hospital, a general anaesthetic and daily aftercare for months until the hoof had healed.

All of us here who knew and loved Gareth just knew that he would not react well to all this interference and it would cause him huge distress. We settled on the alternative option which was to manage his pain with painkillers (given to him in his favourite jam sandwich) for as long as possible.
This weekend the infection returned once again and this time with a vengeance.

We could see that the pain was significant. We had truly hoped that we could help him go on for ages but we had to keep his quality of life uppermost in our hearts and minds.

That is what we do here – as our wonderful founder, Dr S, always said, ‘put donkeys first, second and third’. I’m sad to say that we could no longer manage the pain for Gareth, and so it is that we had to make that most difficult of decisions.

I will remember Gareth with great fondness, he was truly a big personality despite being diminutive in size. He will be sorely missed by us all here at The Donkey Sanctuary as I’m sure he will be missed by all his wonderful adopters and visitors too.

If you adopt Gareth, we will be writing to you shortly about how your adoption will continue with a new donkey friend. Thank you so much for your support during Gareth's life - you continue to make a real difference.

If you would like to donate in his memory and help other donkeys in need just like Gareth, please click here to make a donation.

Maxine Carter, Slade House Farm manager.

Barbuda's feral donkeys

9 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda, one of the two major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway.

In the third part of his report from the island, Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, begins looking at ways to keep donkeys off the runway and discovers the trials and tribulations of filming them...

Wednesday 4 October

“Our task on this latest trip was in response to a direct request from the government minister we’d met yesterday – to look at ways to stop donkeys wandering onto the airport runway, and how they could be driven away so that planes could land and take off safely.

Hurricane Irma had been so destructive that not an inch of the fence around the runway was still standing and the green grass and breezy open spaces of the tarmac runway were proving irresistible to Barbuda’s feral donkeys, as well as many of the horses belonging to the island’s people.

Our boat this time round had a variety of passengers. Besides the Donkey Sanctuary and Humane Society teams were two journalists from a French TV channel, making a documentary about the emergency response, a journalist from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and some Barbudans coming back to begin rebuilding their homes and lives.

Nearly every vehicle we saw had been damaged in some way, with smashed windows or crushed roofs as the hurricane hurled everything in its path, but any that were serviceable were being commandeered for the relief effort.

We could see a group of horses and donkeys on the runway when we arrived, and they eyed us warily before moving further away. I had wanted to film the donkeys walking towards me along the tarmac, so I set the camera up on a bucket, right where the wheels of a plane landing would have touched down. I worked out the tactics with our team to gently coax the donkeys in the direction we wanted.

There is, of course, a universal truth that donkeys will either not do what you expect or what you want. However with Kevin and Rob Nichols as donkey wranglers, now being assisted by at least three dogs from the harbour who had attached themselves to us and seemed very keen to help, the donkeys seemed quite happy to play ball. I switched the camera on, press record and disappeared out of view.

However there were one or two factors I hadn’t considered. Accompanying us to the airport were the two journalists, who wanted to film our efforts. They seemed very excited when we worked out how to corral the donkeys down the runway but assured us they would not get in the way when we did so.

As the donkeys broke their cover from the undergrowth in which they had been happily munching their lunch and began to cooperatively cross the grass towards the tarmac, I was standing about 100 metres down the runway ready to begin filming. However at this precise moment, the two journalists also suddenly decided to break cover from the other side of the runway with video cameras in hand, and despite my loud and not-entirely-polite requests for them to return back into the bushes from where they had come, they didn’t seem to hear me. The donkeys, however, saw them very clearly and proceeded to hurtle in exactly the direction I didn’t want them to. I now said some very impolite words and sat on the tarmac until our surrogate herding dogs saw me and I vanished under a pile of hounds who thought this was the most splendid game ever.

The donkey wranglers shook their heads and said that we’d never get them back now but said they’d give it a go. By some miracle, four donkeys appeared from nowhere, dutifully trotted across the grass and then executed a sharp right onto the tarmac, in a move worthy of an Olympic dressage competition. They were helped on their way by one of the harbour dogs, who was clearly a sheepdog in a previous life. For his pains, he got a well-aimed reverse hoof at speed that just missed his face, which he seemed to find even more fun. I’d somehow managed to maintain composure while all this was going on and filmed the whole thing.”

If you would like to follow the team in Barbuda, or donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: Working in partnershipIn the wake of Hurricane IrmaBarbuda emergency visit