A group of neglected donkeys received a fresh start from The Donkey Sanctuary, ending a period of misery and pain at the hands of a neglectful owner.

Thanks to collaboration between The Donkey Sanctuary, the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, three rescued donkeys –Smokey, Belle and Sophie –are now enjoying life in a safe, loving environment.

Found in a dreadful condition, with marked matting to their coats and overgrown hooves, it was apparent that they had not been receiving attention or care for quite some time. Following a prosecution brought by the RSPCA, the owner admitted that neither vet nor farrier had tended to the group in the four to five years he had owned them. The ruling subsequently disqualified the owner from keeping donkeys for life.

World Horse Welfare transported the group to one of their sites and a farrier removed excess hoof growth to help correct the donkeys' balance. The group then arrived at our New Arrivals unit. The usual timeframe for donkeys to stay at new arrivals is roughly six to eight weeks. This group, however, spent five months at the unit, as our team continued providing treatment and monitored closely for any underlying health conditions.

Smokey had issues with lameness, which had required him to travel separately. This did not dampen his spirits though and New Arrivals Manager Sara Blair-Salter made note of his lovely laid-back temperament.

Sara goes on to explain that: "Every donkey is different. Some of the donkeys that come from horrendous backgrounds come round very quickly but, of course, some many need more time and support to work with. We treat them all individually. Understanding what each donkey likes and doesn't like, and what they are comfortable with, is very important. It is about getting them to trust us."

After enjoying weeks of long-overdue love and care in our New Arrivals unit, Smokey, Belle and Sophie moved to our two sanctuary sites in Sidmouth and began meeting their new companions. Smokey now lives in an all-boys group and has found a best buddy in Caesar. Smokey loves the company of his companions and is always happy to see the grooms when they arrive to care for him.

Belle and Sophie live at Slade House Farm, residing in our youngsters group at Shelter 4. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of them on our webcams. Belle in particular now loves human interaction, and to this day continues to display confidence and trust in everyone she meets.

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