donkey

Should autistic children and donkeys be equal participants?

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Date presented: 
Sunday 7 August 2016
Abstract

We have seen a rise in research investigating equine assisted interventions to relieve problematic traits in children with autism. Parents have been exposed to promises about the potential changes that such interventions achieves but the evidence for non-verbal complex children with autism has been sadly thin and such research usually assumes equines are a homogenous group without considering that their individual characters and emotional state could play a role in the encounter. Often Autism research focuses on dis-ability rather than the autists’ unique abilities which could provide an alternative lens into AAI. This project aims to mark a new era of multidisciplinary AAI research that answers Birke’s (1) question ‘what’s in it for the animals’ by using The Qualitative Behaviour Assessment tool that includes welfare and emotional state of, in this case, donkeys, Minero et al (2) .A Narrative Inquiry method measures both children and families interpretation of the encounters.
This research aims to identify if the synthesis of encounter between donkey and autistic child can (a) drive a new respect for equine- human sensibility whilst (b) providing a genuine enrichment experience for donkeys living in an animal welfare sanctuary and (c) could these sessions show parents and families the unique potential of their autistic child, evidence of a capacity that could facilitate a better understanding of the child’s perception?
Human Participants: 4 non-verbal Autistic children with complex needs between 4-8 years old.
Donkey Participants: 4 AAI facilitators from a UK animal sanctuary.
Methodology:
Repeated Measures design with 2 non participant observers (one child, one donkey focused) with controlled conditions.
Semi structured interviews were conducted with families, grooms and AAI staff as well as the children using augmentative communication.
Early findings: are showing some correlation of outcomes between each child and donkey pair.

Hidden in plain sight: An interspecies quality of engagement tool to assess engagement and consent of donkeys and autistic children during interaction sessions.

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Date presented: 
Wednesday 23 August 2017
Abstract

There is a wealth of research claiming the benefits of Equid Assisted Interactions (EAI’s) but these are often anthropocentric and fail to include measures that capture the abilities as well as disabilities of their participants. This study concentrates on the dyadic relationship between pre or nonverbal autistic children and their donkey partners during interaction sessions.
Benefits of EAI’s for autistic children may derive from an extension of their social curriculum by visiting the EAI centre. They may thrive from engaging with the staff and volunteers, experiencing new sensory stimulations, spending time outdoors and being immersed into an environment that is deemed ‘autism friendly.’ Similarly, the equids may also enjoy an extension of their social curriculum with additional interaction with favoured staff or equid companions, additional food, grooming or rewarding husbandry prior to or after each interaction. Ultimate benefits may be regular veterinary attention and high and consistent standards of care that could result in an extended life.
Any of the above benefits are acceptable and potentially positive, however, none of them stem directly from the dyadic interactions themselves. Prior to clarifying potential benefits of EAI, I argue that it is essential to first measure the quality of engagement between heterospecific participants. Controlling variables for EAI research is notoriously difficult, not least because of the individuality of participants; some show environmental preference, staff or partner preference. Clarifying the quality of engagement between participants provides an understanding 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 administered by one person observing the donkey and another person observing the child. This was to avoid the possibility that one member of the dyad would gain a larger share of observer’s attention with unusual, amusing or neotenic displays, rendering the other partners subtle behaviours unintentionally missed by casual observation. This observational bias, possibly quite common in other EAI sessions, meant that 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 show that QET enables subtle nuances to be detected in real-time and decisions made about the suitability, health and wellbeing of either participant. The consent of both partners was easily observable, thus providing a voice for otherwise non-verbal participants. Comparable data results identified the affect and importance of partner’s engagement behaviour reinforcing the need to include both species as equal participants in the methodology.

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
Event name: 
Anthrozoology Conference
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.

The synthesis of encounters among autistic children and donkeys: Does this particular form of animal assisted intervention show positive outcomes for both species?

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Date presented: 
Friday 15 April 2016
Abstract

We have seen a rise in research investigating equine assisted interventions to relieve problematic traits in children with autism. Parents have been exposed to promises about the potential changes that such interventions achieves but the evidence for non-verbal complex children with autism has been sadly thin and such research usually assumes equines are a homogenous group without considering that their individual characters and emotional state could play a role in the encounter. Often Autism research focuses on dis-ability rather than the autists’ unique abilities which could provide an alternative lens into AAI. This project aims to mark a new era of multidisciplinary AAI research that answers Birke’s (1) question ‘what’s in it for the animals’ by using The Qualitative Behaviour Assessment tool that includes welfare and emotional state of, in this case, donkeys, Minero et al (2) .A Narrative Inquiry method measures both children and families interpretation of the encounters.
This research aims to identify if the synthesis of encounter between donkey and autistic child can (a) drive a new respect for equine- human sensibility whilst (b) providing a genuine enrichment experience for donkeys living in an animal welfare sanctuary and (c) could these sessions show parents and families the unique potential of their autistic child, evidence of a capacity that could facilitate a better understanding of the child’s perception?

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

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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Use of the Modified AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol combined with a novel computer-based Animal Management System as a tool for managing herd health in donkeys

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Date presented: 
Friday 20 April 2018
Abstract

Introduction - The Donkey Sanctuary is a global welfare charity whose mission is "To transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people 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 approximately 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 public and professionals. Welfare of the donkeys on the farms is critical to the credibility of The Donkey Sanctuary.

The veterinary team monitors the herd health to maintain high welfare standards. Traditional input consisted of weekly visits, annual vaccination, dental treatment, parasite control, and a reactive approach to illness. Since the introduction of The Donkey Sanctuary Animal Management System and Animal welfare assessment protocols(AWIN), the team have been able to use evidence -based criteria (EBC) to assess farm herd health.

Methods - Every four months 1) the AMS data base is interrogated supplying information on relevant queries including Body Condition Score, Lameness, Colic, Hyperlipaemia, Sarcoids, Infectious disease, and Mortality rate, 2) an on farm welfare assessment is performed following the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators) protocol for donkeys.

Resource based and animal- based indicators are assessed on a randomly selected 10% of the herd by a team including vet, farm manager and grooms. Different animals are selected at each visit by using the farm named list of donkeys.

Results - Results are recorded via excel, graphical representation and written documentation. The results can be sub-divided in many ways depending upon clinical need.

Discussion- Using EBC and AWIN provides the vet team with tools to pro-actively monitor donkey health, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Welfare can be bench marked and improvements aimed for. Monitoring / recording welfare data allows the DS to be compliant with national legislation [4]. Although a number of welfare assessment tools are available AWIN is validated and straightforward to use. The poster illustrates 4 quarters of data presented graphically.

'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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