The Amhara region has the largest donkey population in Ethiopia. However, their welfare can be poor, due to environmental, disease and management problems. This is aggravated by cultural prejudices towards donkeys, their low economic value and the poverty of farmers. In 2003 the Donkey Sanctuary (Sidmouth, UK) investigated the perceived disease constraints to welfare. The investigation made many recommendations; including developing the capacity of the existing government veterinary service and helping make this service more available to donkey owners. In 2005, three government clinics were selected to take part in a pilot scheme. One veterinary surgeon and one animal health assistant from each clinic undertook to promote good medical treatment of donkeys in the area as well as participation in an extension programme aimed at improving donkey welfare. Basic drugs were supplied to the clinics free of charge and donkey owners were asked to pay only a nominal fee toward the cost of treatment. Many challenges were faced in developing this initiative including: finding personnel with the right knowledge, skills and most importantly attitude, negotiating with government bureaucracy and ensuring the availability and supply of drugs. Constant support and monitoring proved essential. The trial was reviewed after six months. This paper examines the lessons learned from this pilot study, the successes and failures, and reports on future developments.