A pair of gentle-natured donkeys whose feet were so overgrown that they began curling upwards are now spending their days grazing with our herd in Derbyshire.
The RSPCA notified us of Flossy and Jubilee’s pitiful state and enlisted our help to rescue the pair from a dangerous, muddy and wet field at a site near Buxton.
Donkey Welfare Adviser Keira Benham first saw Flossy and Jubilee, aged 14 and nine, respectively, struggling to walk in freezing conditions in January 2021.
Slushy snow covered the ground, and the donkeys’ water troughs had frozen over.
The donkeys’ front hooves were in a horrendous condition, painfully curling outwards and stopping both from walking comfortably.
The animals’ field also lacked adequate shelter, meaning the donkeys were exposed to the wintery elements without proper protection.
Suffering in the snow
When Flossy and Jubilee approached Keira, their coats were dishevelled. There were signs that they were suffering from rain scald – a bacterial infection of the skin characterised by scabbing of affected areas.
Keira says: “Flossy and Jubilee are really gentle. The poor condition of their hooves and lack of adequate farriery care meant the donkeys were experiencing pain and discomfort.
“It was heartbreaking to witness these donkeys being so uncomfortable. Seeing them struggle to walk was very upsetting.”
Keira needed to act quickly to improve their welfare, but their owner was proving difficult to trace.
When attempts to reach their owner proved unsuccessful, Keira returned to the site with an RSPCA inspector, officers from Derbyshire Constabulary and an equine vet.
The weather had warmed slightly, and the field Flossy and Jubilee stood in was now clear of snow.
However, the thawing had revealed several hazards previously hidden by the snow and ice – a large kitchen knife had been discarded in the paddock, along with sharp chunks of wood and loose wire near the entry gate to their field.
Keira says: “I was horrified to see such a potentially dangerous implement on the ground where the donkeys were actively grazing.
“Had either donkey stood on or investigated the knife, it could have caused serious injury to their hooves, limbs or muzzle and left them open to potential infection such as tetanus.”
Tetanus is a bacterial disease that all equines, including donkeys, can contract through damage to the hooves by a puncture injury, open laceration injuries to the muzzle and limbs, or ingestion of bacteria from any contaminated surface, soil or droppings.
Tetanus is a serious illness that can cause infected donkeys to die or require euthanasia. An annual tetanus vaccination and providing a safe, secure environment free from hazards can considerably reduce the risk of infection and subsequent illness.
An unsuitable environment
Keira says: “Donkeys require a solid, waterproof shelter to protect them from the elements and a clean, dry resting area.
“Suitable shelter helps keep them dry in the winter and offers shade in the summer, while hardstanding and dry bedding supports good hoof health and can help prevent donkeys developing conditions as a result of standing on wet ground.
“Donkeys also require a suitable diet, high in forage such as straw and access to clean drinking water at all times. Flossy and Jubilee were living in an environment that was not suitable for their needs – with no shelter they were left exposed to the cold winter conditions.
“The field Jubilee and Flossy were in was lacking in basic requirements. There was no man-made shelter to provide protection from the elements and give them a clean, dry area in which to rest and shield from extremes of weather. There was also a lack of fresh drinking water and appropriate food.
“There was no hardstanding for the donkeys to get out of the wet ground, which worsened their hoof issues. With no shelter to act as refuge from the wind, snow and rain, it was clear that both donkeys were suffering.”
After catching Flossy and Jubilee, a vet examined them, and both donkeys were taken into possession by the police. After the vet certified that the pair were suffering, we took them into our care.
The team gave flossy and Jubilee pain relief before transporting them to our Derbyshire sanctuary, just outside Buxton, where they were given a warm, dry shelter with access to hardstanding and a bed, as well as forage and further veterinary attention.
Once they settled in, the donkeys’ teeth were treated by a qualified equine dental technician. Donkeys need routine dental care to prevent overgrowth and sharp points forming, and other issues leading to dental disease.
Keira eventually contacted the donkeys’ owners, who explained that they could no longer look after the animals due to their difficult circumstances and decided to relinquish ownership of the donkeys to ensure that their future needs could be fully met.
Safe and cared for
Flossy and Jubilee continue to thrive at our Derbyshire sanctuary. Jubilee was slightly nervous about new people after moving to an unknown environment, but both donkeys are very gentle and inquisitive.
Chris Pile, Derbyshire Farm Manager, says: “Flossy and Jubilee spend their days grazing away with their friends.
“We had to clip their coats, and both have had extensive work to their feet, but they are doing well.”
Having seen Flossy and Jubilee progress at the sanctuary, we hope that they may become eligible for our Rehoming Scheme, where they can carry on enjoying living life to the full with one of our wonderful Donkey Guardian families.
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