2000s: A new millenium for donkey care

As The Donkey Sanctuary moves ahead into the 21st Century, our international work expands far beyond anything Dr Svendsen could have predicted back in 1969.


On home soil, we welcome our 10,000th donkey into our care, and developments in technology enable supporters to check in with their favourite donkeys 24/7 through our new webcams.


Dr Svendsen receives the Lord Erskine Award for her contribution to animal welfare.


Our Spanish Sanctuary - El Refugio del Burrito - opened 3 July 2003.

Although we had been carrying out work in Spain for a number of years, 2003 marks the date that a new sanctuary was opened there.

Two of the first donkeys to arrive there, Romero and Hope, are testament to the wonderful care the Spanish sanctuary has provided since its establishment. Romero, the very first donkey to be rescued by the team, came from the well-known town of Mijas, where donkey taxis are the main attraction for the thousands of visitors to this mountainside village. At 28 years old, he had spent most of his life carrying tourists in the village, but was beginning to show his age, and had become lame on one of his front legs.

Hope was a victim of a cruel attack by a group of people in her previous home Athens, who used shovels to cause horrific injuries to her neck, back and tail. As if this wasn’t bad enough, they finished by cutting off her ears three inches from their base. The owners of a local dog rescue centre had been caring for her, but when our Spanish sanctuary opened we were able to transport her there to live amongst other donkeys.

Both Romero and Hope settled in marvellously into their new home to live out the rest of their years in peace. Staff commented that Romero was 'king of the castle' and loved meeting visitors, while Hope was remarkably gentle and friendly in spite of the abuse she once faced.

El Refugio del Burrito
El Refugio Del Burrito became a much needed sanctuary for donkeys like Romero and Hope in 2003.


Our donkey-assisted therapy centre in Manchester opens.


The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico is established.

Dr Svendsen with working donkey in Mexico
Donkey receives treatment from mobile clinic in Mexico
Mexico mobile clinic
Care for working donkeys in Mexico has advanced considerably since Dr Svendsen's initial visits.
Shelter at The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus

A shelter provides donkeys with much-needed respite from the sun at The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus.

Having started work in Mexico in decades previous, 2005 sees our partnership cemented there by establishing a representative office, ensuring that donkeys and mules for years to come would have The Donkey Sanctuary fighting their corner.


31 years after Dr Svendsen's first visit there, The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus is established.


Francesca the foal is born, becoming the 10,000th donkey to have come under the care of The Donkey Sanctuary.


Il Refugio Degli Asinelli - The Donkey Sanctuary Italy - opens to the public.

After receiving 22 tonnes of supplies the previous June, our Italian sanctuary opened its doors to the public to demonstrate the wonderful work they had been doing for donkeys and mules in need. 10 years after their opening, they are still doing a marvellous job, allowing donkeys like Obama and Shorty to live out the rest of their days in peace.

The Donkey Sanctuary teams up with Animal Nepal.

Over the past decade, The Donkey Sanctuary's work in Nepal has been vital for improving the lives of donkeys and mules in Asia. Our partnership with Animal Nepal supplies first aid kits to donkey handlers, builds shelter for working animals, and has even ensured legislative change so that all working equines must take one rest day a week.

Webcams go live on The Donkey Sanctuary's website.

Our webcams now see thousands of visitors every week, allowing our supporters to check in with their furry friends 24/7 from around the globe.

Francesca the 10,000th donkey
Donkeys in the snow, Il Rifugio degli Asinelli, Italy
Animal Nepal vets assessing a lame mule
A safer future for: Francesca, the 10,000th UK donkey; a playful herd at our Italy sanctuary; a mule receiving care in Nepal.