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Margarita saved from illegal camp of starving animals

Latest Sanctuary news - 14 March 2018

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

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

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

Open wounds

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

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

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

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

Mule and donkey rescued

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

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

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

A stressful experience

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

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

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

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

Working together

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

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

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

Life animal ban for man who neglected donkeys

Latest Sanctuary news - 13 March 2018

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

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

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

'Obvious suffering'

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

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

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

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

Sanctuary care

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

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

Making progress

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

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

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, North Yorkshire Police and all involved in investigating this case. The disqualification order imposed by the court serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future and thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are pleased to provide both donkeys with a safe and secure future.”

Concern for tiny Cyprus donkey

Latest Sanctuary news - 28 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immediate needs

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

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

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

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

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

The road to recovery

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctuary rescues 16 neglected donkeys in Ireland

Latest Sanctuary news - 26 February 2018

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

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

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

Drinking puddles

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

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

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

Taken to sanctuary

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

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

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

Road to recovery

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

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

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

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

Latest Sanctuary news - 21 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, West Yorkshire Police and all involved in investigating this case. The disqualification order imposed by the court serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future and we are pleased to provide both donkeys with a safe and secure future.”

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

Ejiao 'not worth buying' say Chinese health officials

Latest Sanctuary news - 21 February 2018

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

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

Just boiled donkey skin

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

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

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

Social media storm

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

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

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

Destroying livelihoods

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

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

Donkeys and wellbeing

Latest Sanctuary news - 20 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

So here are my Donkey Five Ways to Wellbeing!


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

Keep learning

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

Take Notice

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


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

Being Active

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

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

Banned for life - donkey owner admits neglect

Latest Sanctuary news - 20 February 2018

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

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

Guilty plea

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

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

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

Shocking sight

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

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

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

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

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

A difficult decision

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

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

Collaboration and recovery

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

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

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

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

Sanctuary takes in five donkeys when they needed it most

Latest Sanctuary news - 15 February 2018

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

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

There to help

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

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

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

A difficult decision

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

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

A special bond

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

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

Benty and friends

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

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

Adorable donkeys get a roof over their heads

Latest Sanctuary news - 15 February 2018

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

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

No shelter

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

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

Sanctuary support

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

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

Full of character

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

Donkeys are different

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

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

Four foal friends' brighter future

Latest Sanctuary news - 15 February 2018

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

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

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

Tests and checks

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

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

Forever home

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

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

Thanks to you

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

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

Blackie Star

Latest Sanctuary news - 1 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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