2010s: The journey continues

The past decade was marked by the passing of our founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE. To this day, we always adhere to her motto that "donkeys come first, second and third" as we strive to improve the lives of donkeys in the future.



On 11 May 2011 we were devastated by the loss of our founder Dr Svendsen.

It is thanks to her that the lives of innumerable donkeys around the world have improved. In fact, it is impossible to calculate just how many donkey and mules her kindness and determination have reached. Although we have directly cared for over 20,000 equines in the UK, the legacy that Dr Svendsen's work has left has resulted in something that will only continue to help donkeys exponentially: changes in attitudes towards donkey welfare across the globe.

Dr Svendsen surrounded by donkeys
Dr Svendsend with donkeys in 1986
Dr Svendsen on the yard with donkeys
In the wake of her death, we always strive to enable donkeys around the globe to feel the joy they brought to Dr Svendsen.

The director of Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources, Dr Esayas Tessema, recalls his first meeting with Dr Svendsen 20 years ago.

"I was a young veterinary student at Addis Ababa University. I heard Dr Svendsen speak about the poor status of Ethiopian donkeys, and how they were marginalised by academia and veterinary services.

“Things have since changed a great deal. Equine medicine, behaviour and welfare are now an integral part of the university curriculum. And our new partnership initiative is set to improve donkey welfare across Ethiopia.

HRH Princess Anne opens DAT Belfast

The opening of our Donkey-Assisted Therapy centre in Belfast is a Royal occasion.

“I wish Dr Elisabeth Svendsen was alive to see how her vision was realised.”

The Redwings Horse Sanctuary was among the many organisations that paid tribute.

"She was a shining light in the world of equine welfare. Her incredible passion for donkeys and her deep sense of respect and love for these wonderful animals was an example for us all."

HRH Princess Anne opens the sixth Donkey-Assisted Therapy Centre in Belfast on 23 June 2011.


The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) approves global welfare standards for working equines following close work with The Donkey Sanctuary and other charities.


The Donkey Sanctuary's purpose-built, state-of-the-art donkey hospital opens at Brookfield Farm, Devon.

The completion of our specially designed hospital in Sidmouth enables experts in the field of donkey care to diagnose and treat sick and injured animals to the highest standard. In the year following its completion, Peter Wright (Channel 5's The Yorkshire Vet) visits our hospital to assist with the removal of a potentially life-threatening sarcoid from donkey Poppy.

"They've got state-of-the-art operating facilities." says Peter. "I've seen laser surgery for the first time, and Poppy seems completely unfazed by it. She's back to normal as far as she's concerned."

Cutting edge equipment at the new hospital, from endoscopes to diode lasers, enable donkeys in need to have as stress-free and effective treatments as possible.

Peter Wright Yorkshire Vet with foal
Operating theatre prepared for surgery
Georgie is scanned by the veterinary team
"State-of-the-art" says Peter Wright, The Yorkshire Vet, of our new donkey hospital.
Mule on Santorini steps

Donkeys and mules in Santorini now face a brighter future.


Our work with the Palestine Wildlife Society (PWLS) helps to reach over 2,000 donkeys in need in the Holy Land.

Major progress is made towards improving the working conditions of donkeys and mules in Santorini, Greece.

After years of campaigning, 2018 saw a breakthrough in our efforts to improve the lives of working donkeys in Santorini. Talks with the Mayor of Santorini, Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos, lead to his pledge to make improvements by:

1. Extending the shelter at the top of Fira Port steps to protect equine taxis from the sun;
2. Installing a permanent, free-flowing water trough at the top of Fira Port steps to hydrate working animals;
3. Repairing and extend the shelter, and install a permanent water trough at the bottom of Fira Port steps;
4. Revising and simplifying the code of practice for working equines on the island and to harmonise it with new European directives within the framework of Greek law;
5. Supporting training sessions organised by The Donkey Sanctuary later in 2018.

2019 and beyond...

Big plans are in store, but we are still in need of your support.

Sadly, The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the UK and globally remains as urgent as ever. Every day, donkeys in desperate need arrive at our sanctuaries in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Italy. Although stretched for resources and full to capacity, we never turn these animals away. In the final six months of last year alone, we rescued 126 donkeys in the UK and 46 in Ireland, where our sanctuaries are overwhelmed with cases of abandonment and neglect.

Our Rehoming Scheme sent out 119 donkeys in this period, meaning that, on average, we rescued over seven donkeys a week and rehomed five a week to help manage the swelling populations in sanctuary. We’re eternally grateful to both donors who enable us to give permanent care, and those Donkey Guardians providing loving homes in the wider community.

Christmas foal Sam with groom
Molly and Phoebe at grass
Daphne and Murphy well recovered
Some of the friendly faces from the UK and Ireland we've helped in 2019: Sam the foal; Molly and Phoebe; and Daphne and Murphy.

Your support is equally pressing as we strive to make a sustainable difference to the lives of millions of donkeys and mules, serving some of the poorest communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Whether labouring in agriculture, industry or transportation, these beasts of burden endure the greatest suffering, with people often taking advantage of their hardworking traits.

Your generosity helps us fund programmes in almost 40 countries, answering the many emergency calls to improve equine welfare, give donkeys a voice and fulfil our vision of a world where their contribution to humanity is fully valued. We are collaborative in all our activities, working through a network of partner organisations, individuals, and communities. Whether for veterinary care, nutrition, housing, working hours, weight of load or welfare-friendly harness and cart design, we treat every interaction as an opportunity to both learn and teach, so we can help donkey owners and carers become donkey welfare ambassadors, wherever they live and work.

Disco gets treatment in Ethiopia
Deldel receiving wound treatment in Bethlehem
Educating children about donkeys in Badli brick kiln school, India
We aren't simply carrying on our pledge to come to the aid of donkeys and mules in need around the globe. We are educating others so that they too can continue the betterment of international donkey welfare for years to come.

As we look back on half a century of dedication to donkeys and mules - started by one woman with a passion for these delightful and dutiful animals - we can't help but imagine what a difference your support will make to donkeys over the next 50 years.

Thank you for 50 years of support.