Thanks to a call from a member of the public, our welfare team responded to three donkeys in desperate need this winter.
In late November, Ciara O’Kelly, Donkey Welfare Adviser responded to an urgent call about the welfare of three donkeys in a wet field with no shelter and no appropriate feed available. Sadly, when Ciara arrived, she found two mares and a five-month old filly foal, all underweight, cold and hungry. Ciara knew immediately the life of the foal was in danger. Weak with hunger and cold, she was struggling to survive in such an exposed location. With weather conditions deteriorating, it was critical to get these donkeys the help they desperately needed.
With assistance from Gardaí and the owner’s co-operation all three donkeys were moved to the nearest equine veterinary practice. The foal received emergency vet care and was started on an appropriate feeding regime. An examination of the foal’s mother sadly revealed she had stopped producing milk. The three-year-old mare was clearly inexperienced and had started to reject the foal’s attention. When the foal tried to suckle or stay close by her side, the mare would kick out violently. Because of the risk to the foal’s safety, the difficult decision was made to separate her from the mare. This was carried out slowly over a number of days so that both the mare and foal could be monitored carefully for signs of stress. It soon became clear they were content to be separated.
Within a few days of leaving their wet field, both mares began to thrive thanks to extra feed, farrier and vet treatments. We were delighted when we received an offer of a new home with an experienced family for both mares and they will be moved there shortly.
Last week, the foal was carefully transported a short distance to New Arrivals at our sanctuary in Liscarroll to benefit from the expert care and attention of our veterinary team. The young donkey weighed just 50kg – the weight of a two to three-month old foal. Her coat was extremely dirty and matted all over. Her ears, legs and muzzle were covered in rain scald due to being out in continuous wet weather and she was also covered in lice.
At New Arrivals, the foal was gently placed into a deep bed of straw under a heat lamp as our team calmly and quietly settled her into her new home.
Over the next few days, the little foal’s health problems became apparent. She had a heart murmur, and sadly, she stopped eating after a few days and developed severe diarrhoea. Despite the best efforts of our vet team, the foal did not respond to intensive fluid and antibiotic treatment. Her heart was under severe pressure. As her health continued to decline, the heart-breaking decision was made to put her to sleep on humane grounds. Investigations have revealed the foal had a defect in the wall of her heart and she also suffered from colitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the intestines.
Despite our best efforts we were unable to save this foal, but her short life ended in the comfort and care of the dedicated staff at our sanctuary.Cathy Griffin, Head of Welfare says: “This is just one example of how indiscriminate breeding and lack of basic donkey care knowledge continues to cause unnecessary suffering to donkeys in Ireland. The owner in this case was unaware that donkeys need access to a shelter and had never cared for a foal before. Once the welfare issues were brought to his attention, he co-operated fully with Ciara and the Gardaí.”
This year has been challenging for our welfare team as they work tirelessly offering support to donkeys in desperate need around Ireland. Cathy adds: “Please contact us if you need help with your donkeys. We can offer support and advice to donkey owners from queries about shelter, feed and basic donkey care to help sourcing farriers and equine dental technicians.”
The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland would like to thank the local Gardaí for their prompt action and support to ensure these donkeys received the urgent care they required.