The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare have today launched the new Equid Assessment Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, which places cutting-edge technology at the centre of the charities’ research strategies.

This technical innovation is set to give the two charities a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons behind poor equine health globally and enable them to measure the impact of its interventions. 

The EARS tool is built around a sophisticated and versatile questionnaire designed to obtain individual information about an equid and its surrounding environment, or from a group of equids in similar conditions, through cumulative repetition. The tool uses scientifically validated questions employing consistent language, objective measures and thorough training.

Dr Joao Rodrigues, lead welfare assessment at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “For me, one of the strongest aspects of the EARS is that it will give us the chance to build specific protocols for specific situations, regardless of the location or function of a working equid, allowing us to collect evidence-based information in a very accurate way and guiding us in the decision-making process.”

World Horse Welfare international programme officer, Emma Hales says: “We are very excited to be involved in the EARS project. It has been a great opportunity to work in partnership with The Donkey Sanctuary on developing this welfare assessment tool, enabling us to share and include both organisations’ experiences of assessing the welfare of equids in the field. We plan to use the EARS tool to support much of our work in the UK, Europe and internationally. Through this collaborative project we are now able to start collecting, and where appropriate sharing, welfare data of equids across the world.”

As the world’s largest equine charity, we aim to be a beacon of best practice for the 7,000 donkeys and mules cared for at our 10 sanctuaries across the UK and Europe. Ongoing research helps inform our state-of-the-art veterinary care, nutrition and animal enrichment programmes, which enhance mental stimulation and physical exercise. 

In order to help working equines in greatest need, field research informs strategic decisions on projects to deliver maximum impact. An estimated 112 million working donkeys, mules and horses are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and central/South America. The traditional beast of burden, their socio-economic value is often taken for granted, with people exploiting their hardworking traits and stoical natures.