Working together to rescue a pair of Derbyshire donkeys.

Lifelong friends Alfie and Jemima came into our care following a joint operation involving Derbyshire police, the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and Bransby Horses.

Unfortunately their owners had failed to act upon the advice and guidance given to them by welfare agencies and with the situation worsening, a more direct approach was needed. 

The police applied for a warrant to gain legal access to the property, which would allow a veterinary surgeon to assess the donkeys fully. Alfie and Jemima were found to be grossly overweight and suffering from overgrown and damaged hooves. Their field, which was also home to two large cobs, was littered with physical hazards such as sharp metal and wire, but it was also infested with ragwort.

Ragwort contains toxic compounds that cause liver damage to equines and other livestock animals. In many instances ingestion can be fatal. Ragwort is easily identifiable and must be removed from fields in a safe and controlled manner.

Alfie and Jemima
Alfie and Jemima
Alfie and Jemima

The owner of the donkeys failed to accept the welfare issues that had been identified by the vet and as the owner's behaviour became more volatile it was clear that the situation was not going to be resolved amicably. Provisions within the Animal Welfare Act allowed police to take all the equines into possession without owner consent, so arrangements could be made to transport the donkeys to our Derbyshire Centre. 

Our drivers were on hand to ensure they had a safe, steady journey. The horses also needed to be removed but these proved to be a challenge to handle, so it was all hands on deck to corral them safely using a pen system, before coaxing them onto the horse lorry destined for World Horse Welfare. 

While all this was going on, traffic on the main road had to be stopped, so donkey welfare adviser Pam Moon donned a florescent tabard and assisted the police with traffic control. Finally it was time to leave and release the waiting traffic, which had backed up so much that we were told it had made the traffic reports on the local radio station.

Alfie and Jemima soon settled into their new surroundings. They were given pain relief to ease their suffering and make walking more comfortable. X-rays were taken of their hooves and working in conjunction with the vet, a farrier began a programme of remedial trimming to address the abnormal shape of their feet. 

The farm staff at our Derbyshire sanctuary have worked hard to manage the donkeys’ diet and monitor their weight to ensure the scales are going down and not up. They are already beginning to look much better. 

Thankfully, after having some time to reflect, the owner agreed to relinquish ownership of the donkeys to The Donkey Sanctuary. That means we can continue to provide Alfie and Jemima with all the love and specialist care they need to lead happy and enriched lives for many years to come. 

This outcome was only achieved thanks to the combined effort of all the agencies involved, a true celebration of what can be achieved with a little creativity, compassion and collaboration.

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