Three neglected donkeys whose hooves had grown so long they were struggling to walk, are now recovering thanks to the help of international animal welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary.

Gilly, Holly and Snowy’s untreated hooves were 10 centimetres longer than they should have been making, it extremely difficult for the donkeys to walk around their home at a farm in Carlisle, Cumbria.

Sally Bamforth, Donkey Welfare Adviser from The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Even from a distance you could see how abnormally long the donkeys’ hooves were, making it difficult for them to walk naturally. It was the worst example of foot neglect I have ever seen.

“When walking they lifted their legs up much higher than would be usual to reduce the chance of their hooves catching the ground and clipping into the dirt.”

It was clear that the donkeys, Gilly, Holly and Snowy had been suffering from neglect for some time for their feet to be so overgrown and that all three would need urgent veterinary treatment.

The donkeys were also extremely overweight, as they had been left on a farm, to graze on acres of lush pasture, after their owners had to move due to a change in circumstances.

Donkeys are prone to obesity and their diets need careful management. Too much lush grass can cause weight gain as well as laminitis, a painful foot condition.

The donkeys were relinquished into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary with collaboration of the owners and the RSPCA. The animals were transported to a holding base where they received expert veterinary and farriery treatment.

All three have made good progress after months of dedicated care. Sally said: “It is incredible to see the transformation of the donkeys’ hooves and how Gilly, Snowy and Holly are now moving about freely, without discomfort.

“Sadly situations like this are not uncommon. Lack of appropriate hoof care is still one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in the UK today.

“Our welfare team works throughout Great Britain to offer free advice and information to donkey owners about the easy steps that can be taken to avoid this type of suffering.”

Gilly, Holly and Snowy were rescued in December 2020, following a call from a concerned member of the public. The donkeys will remain in the care of the international animal welfare charity, either in one of its sanctuaries or in a Guardian Home through its rehoming scheme.


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.