We all enjoy seeing pictures of donkey foals exploring and enjoying all that life has to offer, however, what does the future hold for foals once these bundles of fluff begin to grow up? Well the truth of the matter is, it depends.
The life of donkeys in Great Britain can vary wildly between those leading happy, enriched and healthy lives; to those who are provided with just enough to meet their basic welfare needs; and sadly, to those who are forgotten, mistreated and abused through incorrect management, ignorance, neglect or wilful cruelty.
Here at The Donkey Sanctuary, we have a no breeding policy, as we recognise that considering whether there is a need to breed is one of the most important decisions to safeguard the welfare of donkeys.
Our Welfare Advisers are often called to support owners who find themselves overwhelmed by some of the welfare issues which over breeding can contribute to, for example: owners who are struggling with the behaviour of their stallion donkeys; owners who have unknowingly purchased pregnant jennies and have no provisions to care for the foals post-weaning; abandoned donkeys or complaints of donkeys being sold in poor condition by dealers or through markets.
The story of Fiona and Harris, is one full of hope for the future, but it was not without its troubles!
I first met Fiona in March of this year, when I was asked by the RSPCA to give advice regarding the welfare of a number of donkeys kept on a yard run by an equine dealer. It was clear that the owner had become overstocked and the effects of a long winter had taken its toll. I shared my concerns about the welfare of the donkeys with their owner who later agreed to relinquish all the donkeys, expect Fiona, into our care. The family were reluctant to part with Fiona as she was in foal and not bonded with any of the other donkeys. Fiona was underweight so I worked together with the family to improve her health and condition during her pregnancy to best support the development and arrival of her foal. With guidance from a local equine vet and with assistance from of our laboratory and research services, we were able to support Fiona with a tailored worming program and nutritional advice which was specific to her needs. Pregnancy wasn’t plain sailing for Fiona and during the later months she experienced pain in her feet and was put on box rest by the vet. That being said, all the hard work and expense paid off when Fiona gave birth to a healthy colt foal – who we now know and love as Harris. I think you will all agree – he is super cute!
During Fiona’s pregnancy, her owners had the chance to consider what the future would hold for her and her foal. Colt foals are harder to sell or rehome than fillies, and Fiona also required additional support and investigations relating to her health. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, The Donkey Sanctuary, were able to offer a safe and secure future for both Fiona, and Harris, so it was agreed that they would come into our care before the cold of winter was upon us.
In mid-September we officially welcomed Fiona and Harris into The Donkey Sanctuary who, after a period of isolation, were reunited with their old stable mates.
Harris will be weaned and gelded once he is old enough and hopefully under the skilled guidance of our grooms, he will grow up to be a well-natured donkey with a great future ahead of him. Please join us in wishing Fiona and Harris lots of love and best wishes for the years ahead. Thank you for your continued support!