A farmer has been convicted of an animal welfare offence after allowing the condition of eight donkeys in his care to deteriorate to the point where two had to be put to sleep.

86-year-old Albert Sauer was handed a £300 fine and a ten-year-ban on owning donkeys or horses on 14 October 2021 at Campbeltown Sheriff Court. Sauer, of Campbeltown, plead guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to eight donkeys under Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 in September 2020.

In total, 11 donkeys were removed from Mr Sauer’s care. The accused failed to provide adequate foot care for the donkeys, which led to two being put to sleep on veterinary instruction to relieve their suffering. The remaining nine are now in the care of international animal welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary.

On Tuesday 26 March 2019, two Scottish SPCA inspectors visited Sauer’s farm after a member of the public raised concerns about animal neglect. The inspectors were shown five male donkeys and six females. Most of them had feet so badly deformed they struggled to walk. Some were underweight and had bald patches on their coats. Sauer advised the inspectors that the donkeys had not seen a vet for some time.

The Scottish SPCA later returned with Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary and a vet from Greenway Equine Veterinary Services. The vet concluded the hooves had become so overgrown that some donkeys would be unable to bear weight properly again. Two Field Officers from World Horse Welfare also attended the address to assist with the handling of the donkeys.

The donkeys were also found to have lice infestations.

Scottish SPCA inspector Yvonne Inglis, who led the investigation, said: “This is without a doubt the worst case of equine neglect I’ve come across.

“Eight of the donkeys had severely overgrown feet that only developed because they had gone untreated for a prolonged period of time. All it would have taken to save these donkeys from months of pain and suffering was regular foot trimming from a farrier. The state of the hooves led to severe lameness and two having to be put to sleep. There is no justification for allowing the health of these poor donkeys to deteriorate to this point.

“Thankfully for the other donkeys involved, The Donkey Sanctuary stepped in to offer support and have been providing them with care and treatment in the right environment. They are all in a much better, happier place now and we’re proud to work with our animal welfare partners to do the best we can by every animal we rescue.”

Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Cases like these are extremely distressing and highlight the terrible neglect that sadly some donkeys continue to experience in Great Britain today. Owning donkeys is a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege.

“Donkeys require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives. Donkeys are incredibly stoic animals by their nature, often the true extent of their suffering is misunderstood, however there is no doubt in this case that the suffering and pain endured by these donkeys would have been noticeable to anyone.

“Our welfare team continue to work to improve the lives of donkeys and mules in our communities through expert advice, guidance and support.’’

It has been a long process to return the nine donkeys back to full health. All of them required special diets to build their weight back up and they also required farrier and dental treatment too.

The donkeys are now getting used to being handled by their dedicated grooms and will continue to receive the highest level of care and attention that they deserve.


For further information or interview requests please contact:
Michael Scobbie
Scottish SPCA

Notes to Editors

Scottish SPCA Notes to editors:

  • The Scottish SPCA is Scotland’s animal welfare charity.
  • The Scottish SPCA is separate from the RSPCA, who work in England and Wales.
  • The Scottish SPCA is the only animal charity in the UK able to report animal cruelty cases to the Crown, with reports sent to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service.
  • The Scottish SPCA receives no government funding.
  • The Scottish SPCA does not put healthy animals to sleep.
  • Scottish Charity No. SC 006467

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.

  • 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.