Many at The Donkey Sanctuary remember the rescue of a group of donkeys from a farm in Tipperary in the depths of a bitter winter three years ago – they became known as the Frozen Donkeys and are now safely in sanctuary care in Liscarroll. The Farms team have done a wonderful job, nursing them back to health and fostering confidence in humans again.
In the spring of this year the Welfare team identified that the same farmer had overwintered groups of donkeys including new-born foals with little attention to their essential needs – no proper shelter or a dry place to lie, without access to appropriate feed, and with a mix of mares and colts left free to breed indiscriminately.
Working with the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) we put a plan in place: in return for us castrating, microchipping and trimming feet the farmer would apply for passports, reduce the number he overwinters in future, and provide much needed shelter and appropriate fodder and food.
Our Vets and Welfare teams combined forces in the spring of 2016 to microchip 32 donkeys, castrate five colts and trim much over-grown hooves. If any come to the attention of the authorities or welfare organisations in the future they can now be traced and someone potentially held responsible. We have applied further and repeated direct and indirect pressure coming into this winter. There have been multiple visits with this farmer and active lobbying of DAFM to apply official pressure. There are now 21 donkeys, all mares or geldings mostly kept at two locations where shelter, a dry place to lie and fodder can be provided. As you can see a sizeable investment has been made in constructing a shed and providing hay. Two donkeys (pictured) with overgrown hooves remain behind barbed wire at a third location where no shelter exists – the next task is to get these moved and the feet sorted.
Life’s not perfect for any of these donkeys; but it is greatly improved. Continued oversight and pressure will be needed – to ensure that the food reaches the donkeys when needed; to check that hoof care is provided; to prevent standards from slipping and other donkeys from suffering a frozen fate in the future.