Three donkeys with overgrown hooves in such a bad condition one was walking on his heels are now safe and well in our care.
Puzzle, Quiz and Wizard, aged nine, two and two respectively, were exposed to the elements and confined to a muddy paddock surrounded by broken fencing and barbed wire at a smallholding in West Yorkshire.
When Donkey Welfare Adviser Adele Crompton arrived on site on a wet and sleety morning in March 2021, they were soaking wet due to the lack of adequate shelter.
Adele says: "The first thing I noticed was the state of Puzzle's feet. I could not believe how he was moving around with such overgrown and twisted hooves.
"They had grown so long, especially his hind feet. I noticed when he was moving; he was walking on the backs of his heels.
"Quiz and Wizard's hooves were also in poor condition. Wizard had a big chunk of her hoof missing – there was an obvious hole, and the hoof looked deformed.
"Quiz's front feet were starting to twist inwards, and he appeared to be in discomfort when standing.
"I knew we needed to intervene quickly to get the donkeys the pain relief and treatment they so desperately needed."
A plan of action
Once Adele had visually assessed the health and welfare of each donkey from behind the fence, she attempted to locate their owner.
An anonymous individual made the original call to us regarding the donkey's welfare, meaning Adele had very little information to act on.
She says: "Because we had not been given the name of the donkeys' owner, and there was no-one at the smallholding I could speak to, it was of the utmost urgency we find out who was responsible for their welfare so we could start helping them.
"I contacted the RSPCA, and their inspector phoned the owner. Both of them arrived at the site promptly."
Once the owner arrived, he caught the donkeys and placed them in an area where we could further check their hooves.
Adele says: "Once they were out of the mud, it was clear how neglected Puzzle's feet were. He needed urgent pain relief and veterinary attention.
"The Covid-19 pandemic had affected the donkeys' owner's income, and with other priorities at home, they had only been able to only provide the donkeys with food and water.
"Donkeys need so much more than that; otherwise, their welfare could be compromised."
Out of the mud and into the warm
Puzzle, Quiz and Wizard's owner immediately relinquished them into our care. Before a donkey transporter arrived at the site, a local vet gave pain relief to all three donkeys.
Adele says: "Despite all they had been through, Quiz and Wizard were still so trusting and friendly.
"Puzzle was a little nervous. I don't think he had experienced as much contact with humans as the other two, so we knew we needed to work on that during his rehabilitation.
"This case underlines the importance of seeking help as early as possible. Early intervention would have prevented Puzzle, Quiz and Wizard's suffering and helped us be there to provide advice, promote the importance of good welfare and look into potential solutions."
After the owner signed the donkeys over to us, we transported them to a holding base. The team at the holding base provided them with a warm, dry shelter, nutritious food and much-needed veterinary and farriery attention.
X-rays were taken of the feet to help inform the vet and farrier of the treatment and management needed.
The donkeys' condition has since improved, but we know it will be a long journey until they fully recover.
A spokeswoman for the holding base says: "Puzzle, Quiz and Wizard are doing very well and have become interested in their surroundings and are keen to interact with people, particularly in the morning when we are topping up their straw.
"Since their feet have undergone farriery treatment, their characters are shining through. Quiz has a heart of gold and is very gentle and patient with the grooms.
"All three donkeys certainly seem happier in themselves, and their feet are looking in much better shape.
"However, they still have a long way to go. Puzzle's and Quiz's hooves were very deformed, so they will take time to recover fully.
"They are still building confidence around humans, but with a lot of love and care, we are hopeful they will start to trust us more and begin to enjoy life to the fullest."
Can you help?
With your support we can provide urgent assistance to donkeys like Puzzle, Quiz and Wizard.