The future looked bleak for Skye after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour. But with our help, he received a life-saving operation and has started a new life under our care.

Eight-year-old skewbald donkey Skye lived in the fields surrounding a distillery in Fort William, a town in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands.

Skye, who lived at the site for at least four years, originally belonged to people living close to the distillery. However, a bereavement in the family meant that the owner could no longer care for Skye or his pony companion.

The distillery manager at the time stepped in to help, taking the animals under their wing and paying a local equestrian to care for them. But, when the distillery management changed hands, the new owners requested that Skye and the pony move from the grounds.

They continued paying for Skye’s care during the search for a new home for him. But after discovering that Skye had a prominent growth, a vet attended and diagnosed a sarcoid, which is a type of skin tumour.

This sarcoid was ulcerated and fibroblastic. These types of sarcoids are usually fleshy masses that can grow rapidly, which means prompt and effective treatment is needed. The vet advised that due to the severity of the sarcoid, Skye would need specialist surgery and dedicated nursing aftercare if he was to have a chance of recovery.

Coupling this with Skye’s complex housing situation and the tight deadline to move him from the distillery, the most humane decision appeared to be to put him to sleep. 

However, the suggestion prompted local volunteer Emma Norval, who was helping the equestrian to look after Skye and his pony companion, to contact us for help and to explore other options before making any final decisions.

Emma says: “We thought there wasn’t anything we could do until my daughter mentioned that The Donkey Sanctuary could help. Together, we spent our day gathering as much information as we could for them. We were so appreciative of the quick response by The Donkey Sanctuary, as Skye was scheduled to be put to sleep the very next day. If it had not been for the quick response by the sanctuary, I don’t think Skye would be where he is today. He is such a lovely boy.”

With the support of World Horse Welfare, our team was able to work with the attending vets and professional experts to explore other options. 

Donkey Welfare Adviser Jenna Goldby says: “As laser treatment was needed to remove the sarcoid, it wasn’t possible to provide Skye with the treatment he needed on site. By working collaboratively with World Horse Welfare, we were able to arrange for an urgent referral to Glasgow Veterinary School.”

The operation on Skye was challenging due to the positioning of the sarcoid. As it presented on the front of the donkey’s chest, the operation was conducted with Skye standing.

Under the expert direction of Professor David Sutton, Glasgow Veterinary School’s Head of Equines, Skye responded very well to the treatment and has made a good recovery.

With Skye’s future still uncertain, we relinquished him into our care after funding the costs of treatment and his ongoing care.

Following his surgery, we took Skye to a local holding base in Scotland, where he continues to live. Skye is receiving expert care and love as he continues his recovery. 

He is a confident and independent donkey who has had little handling in his life, so we have worked with him to improve this.

It is unlikely that Skye will be eligible for our Rehoming Scheme due to the risk of his sarcoid returning in the future. This means he will have a forever home with The Donkey Sanctuary.

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