A giant Poitou donkey left heartbroken by the loss of his best friend has found a new companion thanks to international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.

Topper, a fourteen-year-old Poitou – one of the largest breeds of donkey – lived with his companion Amber at their owner’s property in Wiltshire. But when Amber succumbed to cancer and sadly had to be put to sleep, Topper was left alone, pining for his best friend.

At around the same time, a donkey named Dolly had been brought back into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary after a previous rehoming had not worked out. She had lived at a home with two other donkeys, but unfortunately Dolly had not bonded with them and it was felt that it was in her best interests to find her alternative companionship.

Donkey Welfare Adviser Justine Thomas could see that Dolly was unhappy, and believed that there was someone out there who could provide her with the love and attention she deserved.

After hearing about Topper’s plight from his owner, Justine worked with colleagues at The Donkey Sanctuary, in particular New Arrivals Manager Sara Blair-Salter and Senior Veterinary Surgeon Alex Thiemann, and arrangements were made to introduce Dolly to Topper at his home near Marlborough.

Poitou donkeys are a rare breed and require a specialist care regime. Justine knew that Topper’s owner, who is vastly experienced and knowledgeable in their care, would help Dolly settle in when the pair were introduced.

Measuring an average of 14.2 hands high (142-152 cm), Poitous are distinctive not just because of their size, but also their long shaggy coats. Although a regular breed of donkey, 14-year-old Dolly was particularly tall, so would match Topper’s stature perfectly.

Justine Thomas, Donkey Welfare Adviser at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "Donkeys form strong and long-lasting friendships and much prefer the company of their own kind, so it was very important that we found Topper a new donkey companion. Dolly turned out to be the perfect partner."

Topper’s owner and Dolly’s new Guardian, Sarah-Jane Newton, said: “Topper was clearly in distress at being on his own and I was extremely concerned for his welfare, even to the extent that the whole family slept out in the garden summerhouse right next to his stable, just to keep him company at night.

"The Donkey Sanctuary was amazing. Justine and the team pulled out all the stops and Dolly soon arrived. Topper was beside himself with happiness when he saw her, and although Dolly needed some time to settle in and get used to her new environment, they both desperately needed a best friend and bonded almost immediately."

Sarah-Jane added: "They are inseparable now, and it has been wonderful to watch their relationship blossom. Dolly is a wonderful donkey with a huge personality, they are the perfect match for one another."


For interviews, images and information please contact The Donkey Sanctuary press office on 01395 573124 or 07970 927778 (including out of hours) or send an email.

Notes to Editors

The Donkey Sanctuary is the world's largest equine welfare charity. Our vision is a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued. We run 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe, giving lifelong care to more than 7,000 donkeys and mules. Our hospital treats sick donkeys and trains vets both nationwide and worldwide. Our donkey-facilitated learning programme helps vulnerable children and adults develop life skills by connecting with donkeys on an emotional and physical level. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation, and those used in the production of meat and skin.

Please note that the name ‘The Donkey Sanctuary’ should not be abbreviated to ‘Donkey Sanctuary’, and the word ‘The’ should always appear with a capital ‘T’ as above.