Last year, we received details of a welfare concern about a group of donkeys with long hooves. Emily Collins, Donkey Welfare Adviser investigated and discovered an incredibly complex welfare case that required collaborative work from our team at The Donkey Sanctuary, local vets and farriers, ISPCA, and DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine). Read on to learn more.
The yard at the site of the reported welfare concern was littered with rusty cars and obstacles. Emily carefully picked her way through and soon came across two tethered donkey stallions with their heads hanging. Both animals had infected, open wounds and long deformed hooves. The heavy chains used to prevent the stallions from fighting with each other had left uncomfortable rub marks on their bodies.
Nearby in an empty fodder shed, three young donkeys were huddled in a filthy pen. One young donkey looked like a mare in foal due to its swollen tummy, but Emily quickly realised it was a colt with a heavy worm burden. An emaciated yearling struggled to get to his feet. He also showed signs of a high worm burden and the mare, who was in a similar state fled around the small area in panic. With their long and rotting hooves, every step was agony for these poor donkeys. Their only food source was a bale of black silage, which they were eating through necessity.
As well as the donkeys, there were 33 cats, 83 cattle, over 100 sheep, and, an elderly pony at the site. Sadly, the owner of the donkeys and other animals had passed away.
Working to improve animal welfare
Emily’s approach was to implement a plan to quickly and effectively address the immediate welfare issues. An equine vet and farrier were brought in to treat the lame and injured animals and Emily began several days of visits to give follow-up care including administering prescribed antibiotics and pain relief. Emily spent time with the frightened donkeys and spoke gently to them to gain their trust as she applied poultices and gave wormers to them.
It became apparent that long-term changes were needed to improve the welfare of all the animals on site. The decision was made to involve the authorities. Emily refused to leave any animal behind to suffer and DAFM and ISPCA agreed to step in to ensure that the cattle, sheep, pony, and cats were all attended to urgently. Sadly, the elderly pony and one cow with a leg injury had to be euthanized.
Emily says: “The years of indiscriminate breeding of all species and the neglect of even the most basic standards of care was evident as you entered the yard. Each day we spent at the site, we discovered more animals that were living in pain and suffering, desperately in need of help”.
The search for homes
Safe in the knowledge that the welfare of the other animal species was being looked after, Emily turned her full attention to how we could find new, loving homes for the five remaining donkeys.
As Emily made multiple visits to the donkeys, she was able to begin to establish the bonding within the group and identify some important behaviour and personality traits displayed by the donkeys.
There was Lily, a single gentle mare, OB and Seanie, two mature confident stallions, and Teddy and Eric, the bonded pair of frightened yearling colts. To ensure these donkeys had a bright future, four new homes would be needed.
Due to years of neglect, each donkey required further aftercare, and the animals needed to go to experienced homes where they could continue their rehabilitation.
Emily reached out to her colleagues in our welfare team, looking for suitable homes for the five donkeys. A plan was quickly formed to remove all the animals in one day.
A home for Lily
Lily, the mare could be rehomed immediately and she was the first donkey to leave for a new life of love and care. David Walsh, Donkey Welfare Adviser, knew a family in his area who were searching for a mare to join their own donkey mare following the sad loss of her companion some weeks previously. Their mare was lonely and becoming depressed without company.
Lily was carefully transported to her beautiful new home where she immediately settled in with her new friend. Lily’s new family adores her and has been in touch with Davy to say how happy they with her. She spends her days grazing contentedly and enjoying daily scratches and cuddles. Lily* even has her own rug so that she never has to feel cold again.
Click on the related articles below to learn more about how OB, Seanie, Teddy, and Eric found new homes.
*Photograph of Lily in her new home by Monica Flanagan.
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