Rachael McKinney is this year’s Donkey Sanctuary British Veterinary Association Overseas Travel Grant vet student. She will be spending three weeks in Europe at two sanctuaries in Spain and one in Portugal learning about The Donkey Sanctuary’s European approach to donkey welfare and the differences in issues that they see compared to the United Kingdom.
The feature of The Donkey Sanctuary’s work which I’ve always found the most inspiring is their work with working equids, improving the lives of those dependent upon them financially, and giving a quality of life and security of health to these hard-working “beasts of burden”. In Spain, I have had the pleasure of exploring another side of their work; sanctuary work. Dona Rosa is the larger of the two Sanctuaries in Spain. Whilst it is always difficult to hear stories of abuse, I am astounded once more by the work of The Donkey Sanctuary in alleviating suffering in animals. I was told of one donkey’s ordeal; he was abandoned, tied tightly by the side of a road, and unable to fend for himself. Watching this donkey boss its way from hay rack to hay rack, pushing donkeys twice his size out of the way only to decide it isn’t quite up to his taste, it is truly heart-warming to see the tangibility of the efforts of this global organisation to ensure no donkey suffers. The vigilant feeding, weighing, body-condition scoring, vet and farrier visits, field-maintenance and grooming which goes on here certainly enables these lovely individuals to experience a quality of life which many animals will never know. In short, sanctuary life here is made a blissful existence by the organisation’s endeavours.
Within the Sanctuary, the animals receive a high quality of care in life and in death. One thing resounds among all people who work with donkeys; the inquisitive and humble nature of our long-eared friends is so endearing that euthanasia will always be an emotionally strenuous ordeal. During my time here, one elderly donkey was put to sleep for uncontrollable arthritic pain. It is reassuring to see throughout all sanctuaries that the donkey’s welfare is the utmost priority; when pain can be medicated, it is; when the donkey’s life is dominated by uncontrollable pain, the cessation of pain is the priority. The grooms reassure me that they will be keeping a close eye on the deceased donkey’s closest friend, a small, white donkey, for signs of serious medical conditions associated with donkeys grieving, which can prove fatal.
Dona Rosa has given me wonderful exposure into the workings of a large sanctuary, and I look forward to experiencing the work of the The Association for the Study and Protection of Donkeys, Portugal (AEGPA) in Portugal this week.