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.
When we first found Skip, he was so thin all the bones of his skeleton could be felt through his thick, wet winter coat. He was weak, dull and reluctant to eat.
He and a number of other donkeys lived in an allotment-sized paddock which had become so poached there was nothing but mud under hoof.
The living environment was littered with hazards and rubbish, and the only food available was old, rotting and unappetising.
Growing up in Ireland, the image conjured when someone says ‘donkey’ is, like the majority of the population, that of a sweet, soggy donkey in a field of luscious grass, who has evidently enjoyed one-too-many carrots in their time. Here, the donkeys I met were lean, with hard feet and no real abscess problem to speak of.
Can you imagine carrying out your normal morning routines going to the donkey stable to find the gate open and no donkeys in sight? Complete panic.
Thoughts running through your head at a 100 miles an hour about where they could be.
When a gate has been left open accidentally then there is a guarantee curious donkeys will find it.
At The Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham we have been trying out new forms of enrichment to keep our donkeys stimulated, happy and healthy. Now the weather has got warmer and the donkeys have been grazing in the fields, our staff have tried out three new ways to give the donkeys novel and exciting tastes and smells in the fields.
Just like Dr Dolittle, I bet you talk to your animals and some of you may say your animals talk right back! Many of our fabulous staff and volunteers at The Sanctuary can be heard deep in conversation with their donkey friends – who are very good listeners! Up until a few years ago researchers would say such behaviour had no place in science. However, animal welfare science has come on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades and it is now accepted that, in order to find out what an animal likes and dislikes, one just has to ask. And how do we do this?
Sally, the mule, is now living at our Town Barton Farm, where she is free to relax, play and roam safely in the company of her new friend Pilgrim. Sadly life had not always been this way for Sally.
When I first met her, she was living in what can only be described as squalor, she was stood in thick mud, with no food, water or clean resting area. The environment she roamed in was full of hazards which could have caused her serious injury.