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Donkey Welfare

We provide support, help and advice to anyone involved in caring for or thinking of caring for donkeys and mules. As well as a team based at the main Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon, there is a network of welfare advisers throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe who are there to provide direct help and support to donkeys in need and to donkey owners both from our foster scheme or from private homes and organisations.

We help organise the relinquishment of donkeys and mules into the Sanctuary's care as well as oversee the fostering scheme. We are also the team to help if you see a donkey or mule in trouble.

Advice, help and support on caring for your donkeys is provided by our welfare team by calling 022 49013, Monday-Friday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm (answerphone service outside of these hours).

All calls are strictly confidential.

Caring for Parsley

In 2019 a group of fourteen donkeys from Co. Cork came into our care. Parsley was one of the youngest donkeys in this group. Unused to being handled, he was nervous and frightened.

Parsley was thin and his lice infested coat was dirty and matted. The New Arrivals team knew they needed to treat Parsley urgently. Given that Parsley was a wild foal - due to lack of human contact before his rescue - he was sedated in order for his coat to be fully clipped.

Parsley settled in New Arrivals

Assisting at the Leitrim Pony Riding and Animal Welfare Project

Ask any American about the Irish and their donkeys and they will tell you about a Connemara landscape where a red headed boy and his little sister are loading turf into the creels (baskets) on the back of a donkey. What they actually remember is a famous postcard by the late John Hinde who had a post card printing business in Dublin. He was a pioneer of colour photography and at his peak he sold over 50 million postcards annually. There was no email, Facebook or Instagram back in his day, yet the popularity of his postcards led to them being posted all over the world. The card featuring the boy loading turf onto the donkey was probably one of the most iconic images of its day.

Leitrim Pony Riding and Animal Welfare Project

Helping a solitary donkey called Dylan

Earlier this year the owners of a donkey named Dylan reached out to us for help as they were having difficulty handling and managing him. Welfare adviser Ciara O’Kelly responded and found that Dylan had lived as a solitary donkey for the past three years. Dylan had developed behavioural habits commonly seen when young male donkeys are kept without a suitable companion. Ciara recognised that Dylan would benefit from donkey company and appropriate human interaction and recommended that he come into our care.

Dylan with Eugene

Help us to care for donkeys like Echo

The start of a new life for Echo began when welfare adviser Jane Bruce responded to a report of a donkey with extremely long hooves. When she attended the location, she discovered Echo, a severely neglected donkey whose hooves were at least three times the length of normal hooves.

“The neglect of Echo’s hooves stands out as one of the worst cases that I have witnessed”, says Jane. “He was shifting his weight from one foot to another in order to alleviate the pain in his hooves. He could not be left to continue to suffer in this state”.

Echo came into our care in pain, with very long hooves.

Seven foals rescued just in time

When we were alerted about a group of donkeys outdoors during a cold snap, we responded to help guarantee their well being.

In January 2019, we received a call from a concerned member of the public about a group of donkeys in Kerry described as ‘underfed and miserable’. With a yellow weather warning already in place for snow and ice, welfare adviser Ciara O’Kelly responded quickly.

Seven foals brought into our care

How Donkeys Differ - they are not small horses with big ears!

Although donkeys share ancestral origins with horses, they have evolved differently over millions of years and are different. Domestication has done little yet to dull their natural instincts. Dullness (in the sense of apparent despondency) in donkeys is as serious as colic or long-bone fracture in horses: the dull donkey may already be suffering (but hiding) a terminal illness. We sometimes mistake 'stoicism' for indifference. The ‘stoic’ donkey will often mask severe signs of disease – it is not that he is not suffering. It is more that he doesn’t wish to show weakness to the world, as the latter is not a good survival strategy in the wild.

Chief Veterinary Adviser, Joe Collins

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