Ensuring the health and happiness of every donkey in the UK doesn’t just mean being there for donkeys when their welfare is compromised.

It also means being there in support of owners - especially when tragedy strikes.

The Donkey Sanctuary recently took five donkeys into its care from their home in South Wales, in the hope that one day we will find them another loving forever home.

There to help

When family illness meant the donkeys’ owner could no longer give them all the care and attention they needed, he knew he could turn to The Donkey Sanctuary for help. 

Tamlin Watson, our welfare adviser, visited Benty, Flossie, Toby, Jake and Jasper along with a vet. A sixth donkey, Granny, who was over 20 years old, was x-rayed. This showed up that she had a significantly twisted pedal bone - an essential part of a donkey’s hoof. She was very uncomfortable on hard ground and found it painful to walk. 

Granny was prescribed pain relief in the short term, but it became clear that the difficult decision to put her to sleep would need to be taken. 

Group of rescued donkeys
Jake the donkey
Benty the donkey with her one bent ear

A difficult decision

Tamlin said: “It would not have been fair or welfare-friendly to move Granny away from somewhere familiar all the way down to Devon, the journey would have been painful for her and this stress would have made for a very miserable donkey - it was better for all for her to be put to sleep peacefully amongst all of her friends in familiar surroundings.”

We worked with the owner to get Granny euthanised well before the rest of the herd was moved, as one of the herd, Toby, was very bonded to her. 

A special bond

Donkeys form very strong bonds but they are susceptible to a stress-related illness called hyperlipaemia; it is potentially fatal and can be triggered when a donkey loses its best friend, so we needed to take extra care.

“Hyperlipaemia has a three-week high risk period,” said Tamlin. “We wanted to ensure Toby was out of this risk period before moving them.”

Benty and friends

Each of the donkeys has their own personality and their own story to tell. Jake had a sarcoid removed one year ago and has remained a little wary ever since. Benty - so named because of her bent ear - is particularly very sweet and the rest of the herd are very friendly and easy to handle. 

Our founder, Dr Svendsen, said that “for as long as donkeys need my help, they shall have it” - a sentiment which is continued throughout the organisation today.