Our annual review outlines what a difference we made to donkeys' lives in 2019.

In the short space of time it has taken to write this report, the world as we know it has changed dramatically. The new coronavirus outbreak has significantly affected the way we live and work, but despite this upheaval, some things remain the same: we believe that donkeys should live in a world where they are free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.

In light of current circumstances, 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. But it’s worth remembering that 2019 was a golden year for The Donkey Sanctuary.

Our staff came together across multiple locations to celebrate our 50th anniversary and toast some historic achievements, while also looking ahead to our exciting future aspirations for donkeys.

We had a great year with the release of our Under the Skin update report in Nigeria, helping galvanise international press in raising awareness of this terrible crisis which results in millions of donkeys being slaughtered for their skins. On a lighter note, we secured a Royal visit to our Sidmouth HQ and our ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden won the people’s choice award at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. This win helped us speak directly to millions of people about the importance of donkeys to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Our specialist donkey hospital at Brookfield Farm received an accreditation from The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which is a worthy reward for all the hard work and expertise of our veterinary team, and our global programmes work evolved in 2019 to build some strong international collaborations including finalising a project agreement with Send A Cow in Ethiopia to promote donkey welfare through this project. We hope to see more partnerships like this in the future as we develop our global strategy further.

Collectively all of these initiatives helped drive outstanding media coverage of our work both in the UK and overseas - reaching more people than ever before with our story and our purpose.

Running parallel to this, we experienced another year of record income growth, helped by high visitor numbers over the summer. In 2019 almost 400,000 people came to see our work at Sidmouth.

In the UK we opened our New Arrivals and Rehoming Units and published the influential Clinical Companion of Donkey Dentistry. Our Freedom to Roam trial allowed our donkeys to leave their paddocks and explore large wild areas of our sites and showcased a radically new method of managing land for our donkeys.

The value of our Donkey Assisted Therapy (DAT) work develops as quickly as our client base widens and last year a team of NHS nurses benefitted from hands-on sessions at DAT Manchester.

The unwavering loyalty of our supporters meant we could take in 227 donkeys and mules in need of sanctuary here in the UK, while finding loving Guardian homes for a further 211. The completion of our new Rehoming Unit will allow us to prepare even more donkeys to leave and join the 2,325 others on our Rehoming Scheme.

All of this phenomenal achievement is testament to our supporters and staff who enable us to achieve so much for donkeys, bucking trends against a difficult and uncertain social, political and financial backdrop.

In my position as Chief Executive of this wonderful organisation, it is reassuring to know that we can face major challenges head-on with determination and strong belief in what we do.

I feel immensely privileged to be part of the incredible work of The Donkey Sanctuary, and I am genuinely excited to be helping frame our next chapter for the next 50 years.

We will remain at the forefront of donkey-first thinking in the world - advocating, cajoling and persuading that what’s good for donkeys is good for all of us.

We hope this report will provide detailed insight into the last 12 months of our work, and inspire you to join us on the journey ahead to create a world free from suffering for donkeys and mules.