Christmas is just as special to us at our sanctuaries today as it was 50 years ago, when the charity was formed by one woman with a clear mission: to do right by donkeys the world over.
50 years of care at Christmas
In 1969, our founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen rescued a donkey named Naughty Face, and quickly got herself onto Santa’s 'Nice List'. Fifty years later we’re still providing warm beds and a hearty meal every Christmas morning for donkeys in need.
Dr Svendsen, or Dr S as she was affectionately known, devoted her life to making the world a better place for donkeys and mules. She pioneered our welfare work both in the UK and across the world, and laid the foundations for our Donkey-Assisted Therapy scheme, which continues to help vulnerable people develop key life skills today.
Sadly, after decades of devotion, Dr S passed away in 2011, but not before over 10,000 donkeys had trotted through the sanctuary doors and her life’s passion had evolved into a global charity. To this day, her vision remains at the heart of everything we do.
Hear Dr Svendsen speaking about her love for donkeys back in 2009...
Donkey enrichment at Christmas
We love how inquisitive donkeys are, so at Christmas, and throughout the year, we get them gifts that bring out the best in them.
Our donkeys love exploring their more curious side, as they would in the wild. We offer them different flavoured water which they sniff, lick and explore, and they love investigating a string of carrots tied up in their yard.
Seemingly every day objects make for fantastic enrichment toys for our herd: footballs and tyres are among their favourite playthings, but a wellie boot will often trump all other options of play.
See the donkeys in action, and find out more about enrichment from their grooms...
Featured in this video:
Ruby is such a clever donkey, full of imagination and always thinking about her next adventure. Join her adventure this Christmas.
Stars come in all shapes and sizes - and Millie the mule is certainly no exception. Ever the performer, Millie knows a host of fun tricks.
Shocks - a donkey with gifts that can't be wrapped up
Shocks was found barely alive on a farm in Ireland when our staff came across him in 2010. Nobody expected him to survive - let alone come to bring endless joy to the vulnerable children and adults he would come to meet over the years.
Shocks' was one of the worst cases of neglect our welfare team had seen. He had a developed a skin infection in his neck; rather than seek treatment, however, his owners had poured industrial-strength bleach into his wounds, tethered him to a pole and left him to die.
Following his rescue, Shocks was given ongoing vital veterinary care which eventually healed his wounds, but it was the months and years of care since that has helped Shocks grow in confidence and learn to trust humans again.
Shocks and Amber's magic bond
Now, Shocks is able to help vulnerable people develop their life skills at our centre in Birmingham, and live a life of sanctuary.
When a young girl called Amber first met Shocks, it was as though they had known each other for years. Despite having a fear of humans due to his mistreatment, when Shocks saw Amber approaching, he lowered his head so that she could wrap her arms around his neck.
Amber and her twin sister, Hope, were born 14 weeks premature, and Amber was rushed to hospital for an emergency tracheostomy. Doctors diagnosed Amber with Cerebral Palsy and said that she was unlikely to ever walk or talk.
As Amber’s mother, Tracy, said: “It was as if they understood each other’s pain. Like two broken beings, helping each other.”
We were amazed to see the gradual change in this timid donkey, as he blossomed and became friendly and confident. It was to prove an intense bond, and one that was to help both child and donkey - and change Amber’s world entirely.
When you adopt a donkey as a gift this Christmas, you are helping us provide lifelong care to animals with so much to give. In helping to change a donkeys' life, you could be helping the lives of vulnerable people across the United Kingdom, too.
Why Adopt a Donkey this Christmas?
When you adopt a donkey as a gift, your ongoing support will be going directly towards the care of rescued donkeys in our UK and European sanctuaries, but it will also reach donkeys in need around the world too.
Your gift will buy food and medicine, pay for vets and farriers, and it will be used for education and training new donkey owners. Most importantly of all, it enables us to rescue helpless donkeys from hopeless situations.
What's included in the adoption pack?
- Two gorgeous portraits of your donkey
- A display frame for your portraits
- Four beautiful postcards to share
- Your adoption certificate
- Your keepsake membership card
- And a guide to getting the most from your adoption
Last minute gift?
No problem! Order before 18 December to guarantee receiving an adoption pack before Christmas.
If you order after this date, you can download an adoption certificate from your confirmation email and we will send your adoption pack as soon as we possibly can.
Continue our founder's vision...
...help spread Christmas cheer to donkeys worldwide.