United Kingdom

Measuring engagement between autistic children and donkeys

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Date presented: 
Thursday 5 April 2018
Abstract

There is a wealth of research claiming the ‘benefits’ of Equid Assisted Interactions (EAI’s), but these are often anthropocentric and describe ‘improvement’ to the human’s disability as the measurable benefit. This study concentrates on the dyadic relationship between pre or nonverbal autistic children and their donkey partners during interaction sessions.
Prior to clarifying potential ‘benefits’ of EAI, I propose that it is essential to first measure the quality of engagement between heterospecific participants. This provides contextual evidence about the nature of each individual’s behavioural responses relative to the other. Knowing the quality of engagement between participants, creates an opportunity to disentangle variables and interpret the potentially confounding causality of perceived benefits.
By designing and utilising a unique Quality of Engagement Tool (QET) to measure engagement of both donkeys and children, I was able to capture the emerging relationship between human and equid participants. I observed how heterogeneity of character and personal preference, irrespective of species, affected levels of engagement. The tool identified differences in engagement seeking or avoiding that varied, with different partners. The QET was designed to avoid the possibility that one member of the dyad would gain a larger share of observer’s attention, rendering the other partners’ subtle behaviours unintentionally missed by casual observation. This observational bias, possibly quite common in other EAI sessions, meant that welfare concern signals could be unintentionally, hidden in plain sight. Donkeys are generally more stoic than horses and may only display subtle behaviour changes when in pain or fearful. My findings showed that QET enabled subtle nuances to be detected in real-time and decisions made about the suitability, well-being and consent of either participant.

The Synthesis of Encounters among Autistic Children and donkeys: Can a mixed methods design show positive outcomes for both species?

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Date presented: 
Friday 20 May 2016
Abstract

Many studies that regard the effectiveness of animal assisted interventions are in fact only interested in the child, assuming that the animals in the research are a homogenous group whose characters and emotional states don’t play a part.
Both nonverbal autistic children and donkeys communicate with gesture and often with limited vocalisations. Both come from a social species and are sentient. Their individual emotional states must affect the other.
This study places both the nonverbal autistic children and the donkeys that facilitate their intervention as equal participants, thus recording both species responses using a qualitative behaviour analyses tool and a multispecies ethnographic approach.

Monitoring herd health in donkeys using welfare assessment and clinical records

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Date presented: 
Saturday 22 September 2018
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary (DS) is an equine charity whose mission is to “transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and the people that depend upon them worldwide”. In the UK, The DS cares for over 2000 donkeys on a number of farms varying in size from 250-580 animals. The farms aim to rehome up to 10% of their herd annually to guardian (private) homes or donkey assisted therapy centres. The farms also provide a show case for our work to visiting professionals and the public. Welfare of the donkeys on farms is critical to the credibility of the Donkey Sanctuary. Using welfare-based criteria alongside health records has enabled the teams to pro-actively monitor donkey welfare, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Since 2017, the DS has been using the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators), which are animal and resource based measures. AWIN is used on a quarterly basis on all farms to evaluate the following AWIN criteria: Appropriate nutrition (body condition score BCS), Absence of injuries (lameness, joint swelling, skin change, prolapse), Absence of disease (hair coat, faecal staining, ocular/nasal discharge, abnormal breathing, cheek teeth palpation), Absence of Pain (hoof neglect, lameness, hot branding), and Human-Animal Relationship (avoidance behaviours, tail tuck). The donkeys chosen are a random 10% at each visit using a named list of donkeys. This data is evaluated alongside information collected from a computer based Animal Management System, where vets input clinical conditions in pre-determined categories to monitor physical health - the main ones aligned are BCS, lameness, colic, hyperlipaemia, sarcoid, eye disease, and mortality rate. Over 1 year at 1 farm with 580 donkeys: AWIN showed (i) loss of weight control over summer with total animals BCS >4 (scale 1-5) increasing from 13% in January to 31% in September, (ii) lameness peaking on turnout (from 6-15% herd), (iii) skin disease (relating to lice burden) decreasing from 32% (winter) to 7 % summer, (iv) hoof neglect (thrush, abscesses) remaining high all year at >50%, (v) avoidance behaviours constant at about 12%- relating to new animals arriving and calm animals leaving. Data is recorded in Excel, and presented graphically and by written documentation.
Quarterly meetings with the farm manager and staff enable timely feedback.
Welfare can be benchmarked across farms and improvements aimed for. AWIN is validated and straightforward to use.
Lay person message: Traditional herd health monitoring is based on veterinary morbidity/ mortality figures using historical data from computerised records. The Donkey Sanctuary has responsibility for a large number of rescue and rehomed donkeys on farms whose welfare is high priority. The DS has introduced a validated welfare assessment tool to be used four times a year, to monitor animal and resource based measures of welfare (AWIN). This allows information to captured in real time rather than retrospectively and adverse welfare can be identified. Using this tool allows evidence based management changes to be made.

Proceedings
Number of pages: 
63
Publisher: 
Pisa University Press

How is that donkey? Quality of life assessment in companion and geriatric donkeys

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Alexandra K. Thiemann. How is that donkey? Quality of life assessment in companion and geriatric donkeys. Presented at London Vet Show. (15 November - 16 November 2018). London, UK.

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Date presented: 
Thursday 15 November 2018
Event name: 
London Vet Show
Abstract

In the UK, there are an estimated 10-15, 000 donkeys; most of these are kept as companion animals, while some are used for light riding/driving and as therapy animals.

Donkeys can be a long- lived equid with reported ages commonly into their late 20s and even 30’s. As they are not required to perform as athletes, many donkeys enter old age with chronic geriatric problems that need diagnosing and managing.

The donkey is a species with pronounced pain masking behaviours (stoicism), and many serious, painful and even life-threatening illnesses may present only as a generally dull animal with reduced appetite.

There is a general lack of many preventative health measures provided to donkeys including regular dentistry, farriery, anthelmintic treatment, and even vaccination, microchipping and passporting. This means that donkeys not only are more likely to suffer disease themselves but also have the potential to act as sources of disease/infection to other equines.

The net results of all the above is that donkey welfare is frequently compromised and charities such as The Donkey Sanctuary are required to provide assistance or be involved in prosecutions against owners under the Animal Welfare Act.

There are many methods to assess welfare involving animal based and resource based indicators. The Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) for donkeys is founded on the principles of good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour. Art the Donkey Sanctuary we are using this to monitor the herd health of our donkeys on a regular basis. A larger group of welfare indicators has been developed to assess welfare across the full spectrum of roles that donkeys play globally including in the meat, milk and skin trade. These type of assessments are particularly useful for providing information about groups of donkeys and how to prioritise resources to care for them.

For the individual donkey and owner we have developed a simple Quality of Life framework using eight objective easily identified criteria and one subjective criteria. These are charted on a regular basis with the owner and vet working together to agree on the scoring system.

The criteria that we have found to be of most value are:

Body Condition Score- using Donkey scales 1 (thin) to 5 (obese)
Weight in Kg – either weigh scales or heart /girth measurements and donkey normogram
Feed- required to maintain weight or cope with condition
Medication- for regular use e.g. to stabilise PPID cases, to manage lameness/stiffness
Dental grade- using Donkey Sanctuary grading system 1 (good)- 5 (poor)
Appetite- monitor carefully to ensure no sham eating
Movement- lameness grade 1 mild- 5 severe. Donkey normal values for radiological parameter of the feet should be used.
Blood results- using donkey normal values
Demeanour- general owner assessment of well being- this can be supplemented by a behavioural assessment form that is available to look at normal day to day activity patterns of the donkey.

The system developed uses donkey normal values and knowledge of the variations from the horse to interpret the findings and ensure correct dosing of medications.
When we use this system over a period of time there is a better understanding of the long term needs of the donkey by all parties – vets, owners, and paraprofessionals. Monitoring can result in changes to management that improve QoL and ensure a better life. Conversely monitoring can allow objective measurements to note decline in QoL so that all involved in the care of the donkey can make the decision that euthanasia may be the most humane option. Regular checks reduce the problem that is often seen when owners adapt to a poorer QoL as they fail to notice incremental changes in the animals’ well-being.

There are many ways as vets that we can help donkeys to live good lives; and by knowing their unique characteristics and differences from horses we can ensure that the welfare of donkeys we attend is as good as we can make it.

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Objective Pain Assessment in Donkeys – scale construction

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M. C. VanDierendonck, Faith A. Burden, Karen Rickards, J. P. A. M. van Loon. Objective Pain Assessment in Donkeys – scale construction. Presented at British Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2018.

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Date presented: 
Thursday 13 September 2018
Abstract

Background: Objective recognition of pain in horses has been studied extensively, however studies on objective pain assessment in donkeys are limited, and the available scales are not validated. Objectives: This study describes scale construction and clinical applicability of a Composite Pain Scale (do-CPS) and a Facial Assessment of Pain scale (do-FAP) for acute pain in donkeys. Study design: observational. Methods: The study included 159 adult donkeys (n = 44 patients, n = 115 control donkeys) which were directly observed at The Donkey Sanctuary. Patients were presented with lameness (24), colic (7), head related pain (7) or post-operative pain (6). Based on equine scales specific potential elements and scores for donkeys were developed in a pilot study. The observers were not involved in donkeys’ clinical management. For each animal, the score of each element in both scales was assessed by two groups of independent observers. When applicable the patients were followed over time, once or twice daily. Patients and control groups were compared by Mann Whitney-U-tests. Results: The inter-observer reliability was strong for do-CPS (R2 = 0.95, p<0.001) and good for do-FAP (R2 = 0.77, p<0.001). Patients had significantly higher pain scores, compared to control donkeys (p<0.001 for both do-FAP and do-CPS). Sensitivity overall for the do-CPS (73%), do-FAP (68%), and specificity do-CPS (99%), do-FAP (75%) were good. Sensitivity and specificity for “lameness” were strong in do-CPS (92% and 100%, respectively). Sensitivity and specificity for “colic” were strong for both do-CPS (71% and 100%, respectively), do-FAP (95% and 79%, respectively). Main limitations: Observers could not be masked to the patients’ condition. More patients are needed with painful conditions other than lameness. These scales will be validated in a planned follow-up research. Conclusions: Objective pain assessment in donkeys is possible and may support objective evaluation of treatment of donkeys with acute pain.

The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare

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Francesca Dai, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, Michela Minero. September 2018. The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare. Italian Journal of Animal Science.

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Publication date: 
11 September 2018
Abstract

Donkey milk is a valuable product for babies suffering from multiple-allergies and cosmetic production; therefore, new dairy donkey farms are opening around Europe. Little information is available for farmers on sustainable production of donkey milk, including animal welfare, milk production, and processing. Targeted dissemination of information on appropriate animal management would assist dairy donkey farmers in preventing welfare problems. This research project aims to develop guidelines on good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production. Different steps were followed to develop the guidelines:
1. identification of key issues for dairy donkey welfare, analysing the results of previous project and the available scientific literature;
2. systematic review research to select promising solutions for each issue included in the guidelines;
3. stakeholder consultation, in order to increase scientific soundness and to enhance their acceptability throughout the sector;
4. guidelines drafting and revisions by stakeholders;
5. guidelines launch.
The guidelines ‘Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production’ were launched in December 2017. They include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts. The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production. They comprise the following chapters: ‘Responsibilities’, ‘Feed and water’, ‘Housing and Management’, ‘Donkey health care’, ‘Humane killing’, ‘Appropriate behaviour’, and ‘Milking procedures’. The guidelines, translated in different languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek and Chinese Mandarin) are freely available online.
The guidelines “Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production” are freely available online in six languages
The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production
The guidelines include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts

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'A journey of discovery' - the role of the donkey in facilitated learning programmes

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Date presented: 
Thursday 26 April 2018
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary has been providing Donkey Assisted Therapy in locations across the UK since the mid 1970’s. The Donkey Assisted Therapy programme aims to improve the lives of both the donkeys we provide sanctuary for, as well as children and adults who visit our centres for support, learning, fun and therapy.
Recently we have started to advance the way in which our centres run, to ensure that we can offer our services to a diverse array of users whilst maintaining the highest possible welfare standards for our donkeys. The change in working practices has seen us decreasing the amount of Therapeutic Riding Programmes offered, and increase Donkey Facilitated Learning (DFL) sessions. Thus opening up our service to a wider range of ages and abilities.
Since starting this journey of change we have found a positive impact on the progression of service users, the development of new user groups, and the welfare of the donkeys involved in the programme. Service users work through a programme of life skills learning which facilitates the development of psychosocial skills. Using Qualitative Behavioural Assessments donkeys have shown an increase in relaxed behaviours, and a decrease in anxious body language since the change in services offered.
Presented as a talk.

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Shelter-seeking behaviour in domestic donkeys and horses in a temperate climate

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Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Sarah Long, Nikki Bell, Faith A. Burden. July 2018. Shelter-seeking behaviour in domestic donkeys and horses in a temperate climate. Presented at 52nd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology. 58.

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Date presented: 
Tuesday 31 July 2018
Abstract

Donkeys and horses differ substantially in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs. Donkeys are often kept in climates that are colder and wetter than those they are adapted to and therefore may suffer impaired welfare unless sufficient protection from the elements is provided. We compared the shelter-seeking behaviours of donkeys and horses in relation to temperature, precipitation, wind speed and insect density. Our study collected 13,612 day-time data points (location of each animal, their activity such as feeding, resting, moving, etc., and insect-related behaviours) from 75 donkeys and 65 horses (unclipped and un-rugged) with free access to man-made and natural shelters between September 2015 and December 2016 in the South-West of the UK. Each animal was observed at least once a week, with an average of 65 observations per individual overall. Even though the UK climate is quite mild (1 to 33 degrees Celsius in our sample), the preliminary results showed clear differences in the shelter seeking behaviour between donkeys and horses. Overall donkeys were observed far more often inside their shelters than horses (χ2(1)=1,783.1, P<0.001). They particularly sought shelter when it was raining: there was a 54.4%-point increase (35 to 89.4%) in the proportions of donkeys sheltering in rainy conditions, in comparison to a 14.5%-point increase in horses (9.6 to 24.1%). Results of binary logistic regressions indicated that there was a significant association between species, precipitation and shelter-seeking behaviour (χ2(3)=2,750.5, P<0.001). Horses sought shelter more frequently when it got hotter, whereas donkeys sought shelter more often in colder weather (χ2(3)=2,667.3, P<0.001). The wind speed (range 0 to 8 m/s – calm to moderate breeze) had an effect on location choice, and this again differed significantly between donkeys and horses (χ2(3)=1,946.5, P<0.001). In a moderate breeze, donkeys tended to seek shelter whereas horses moved outside. The insect-related behaviours were closely related to temperature and wind speeds. The donkeys’ shelter-seeking behaviour strongly suggests that in temperate climates they should always have access to shelters that provide sufficient protection from the environment.

Proceedings
Number of pages: 
58
ISBN (13-digit): 
978-90-8686-322-8
Publication date: 
18 July 2018

Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Sarah Long, Nikki Bell, Kristin Hayday, Faith A. Burden. April 2018. Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate. Equine Veterinary Journal. 50:3. 339-342.

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Publication date: 
6 April 2018
Volume: 
50
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
339-342
DOI number: 
10.1111/evj.12775
Abstract

Background: There are clear differences between donkeys and horses in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs.
Donkeys are often kept in climates that they are not adapted to and as such may suffer impaired welfare unless protection from the elements is
provided.
Objectives: To compare some of the hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses living outside, throughout the year, in the temperate climate of
the UK.
Study design: Longitudinal study.
Methods: Hair samples were taken from 42 animals: 18 donkeys (4 females, 14 males), 16 horses (6 females, 10 males) and eight mules (5 females, 3
males), in March, June, September and December. The weight, length and width of hair were measured, across the four seasons, as indicators of the
hair coat insulation properties.
Results: Donkeys’ hair coats do not significantly differ across the seasons. All three measurements of the insulation properties of the hair samples
indicate that donkeys do not grow a winter coat and that their hair coat was significantly lighter, shorter and thinner than that of horses and mules in
winter. In contrast, the hair coats of horses changed significantly between seasons, growing thicker in winter.
Main limitations: The measurements cover only a limited range of features that contribute to the thermoregulation of an animal. Further research is
needed to assess shelter preferences by behavioural measures, and absolute heat loss via thermoimaging.
Conclusions: Donkeys, and to a lesser extent mules, appear not to be as adapted to colder, wet climates as horses, and may therefore require
additional protection from the elements, such as access to a wind and waterproof shelter, in order for their welfare needs to be met.
First published online 20th October 2017.

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Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK

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Alexandra K. Thiemann, Elena Barrio, Karen Rickards, Anna Harrison. July 2018. Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK. In Practice. 40. 249-257.

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Publication date: 
12 July 2018
Journal: 
In Practice
Volume: 
40
Page numbers: 
249-257
DOI number: 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/inp.k2584
Abstract

The role of donkeys in the UK and Europe has changed over the past 40 years, and is still changing – these equids are primarily used as companions, but also for tourism, therapy and increasingly for milk production. When it comes to the end of their lives and issues surrounding equine end-of-life care, a recent study highlighted that many donkey owners rely on their vet to provide them with information on quality of life (QOL) assessment, geriatric care and euthanasia planning. This article aims to assist veterinary surgeons in assessing donkey welfare and helping owners decide how to improve QOL or whether an end-point has been reached and euthanasia is indicated.

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