Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE, who founded The Donkey Sanctuary, was born in Yorkshire and, although her love of donkeys started at a very early age, it was not until she was married, with a family, and helping her husband to run the Salston Hotel at Ottery St Mary in Devon that she was able to own her first donkey.
Dr Svendsen's First Donkey
Naughty Face joined the family in 1969, quickly followed by a donkey named Angelina. Becoming more and more interested in donkeys, Dr Svendsen joined the Donkey Breed Society and became their Area Representative. Visiting the Exeter Market one day she saw something that changed her life - seven poor little donkeys crammed in a small pen. She tried to buy the donkey in the worst condition, without success, and from that moment on, she decided that instead of breeding donkeys she would try and save them.
Growing all the time!
The donkey family grew and grew, and in 1973 The Donkey Sanctuary was registered as a charity. Dr Svendsen had 38 donkeys under her care when, in June of that year, she received a phone call from a solicitor who was the Executor of the Estate of the late Miss Violet Philpin, a lady who had cared for donkeys at her Helping Hand Animal Welfare League Donkey Sanctuary near Reading in Berkshire. The solicitor explained that Dr Svendsen had been left a legacy - of 204 donkeys!
Well, with the help of the Charity Commission the two charities merged, and from then on the lives of the Svendsen family changed completely!
Slade House Farm was purchased to house the fast growing donkey family. Over the years since then more and more donkeys have been taken into care, and to date over 14,500 have passed through the Donkey Sanctuary's gates in the UK and Ireland.