Four donkeys who were part of a larger group living with overgrown hooves are now thriving at our New Arrivals unit in Liscarroll, Ireland.

In early summer, Donkey Welfare Adviser David Walsh received a request for help from a vet in the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). They had been called to the property of a donkey owner in the west of Ireland.

The vet had discovered eight donkeys, six of whom were very thin with back and hip bones protruding through their coats. All of the donkeys had long, untrimmed hooves.

David spoke with the owner and quickly assessed the donkeys. He realised the group had grown due to unplanned breeding, and the owner was now struggling to care for the donkeys.

Fellow Donkey Welfare Adviser Emily Collins arrived with David to assess the donkeys within a few days, and Eugene Butler from the Irish welfare team trimmed the donkeys’ long hooves. Two of the animals are foals, and David and Emily knew that for them to thrive, they needed the help of our veterinary team at New Arrivals in Liscarroll.

The donkey owner agreed to relinquish four of the donkeys into the care of our team in Ireland. Our sanctuary in Ireland is full, but there is a small amount of space for cases involving mares with foals each year. We called the four donkeys Alina, Alex, Emily and Beth, and they travelled to Liscarroll to begin their rehabilitation in the care of our veterinary team.

Both foals, Beth and Alex, have been weaned from their mothers (Emily and Alina respectively). They are currently on extra feed twice a day.

They are growing in confidence, thanks to the good work done by the team at New Arrivals, who have been picking their feet up and running their hands down their legs to ensure they become accustomed to daily care.

Dawn O’Connor, New Arrivals Supervisor, says: “Both mares were extremely nervous on arrival but have come a long way in a short time. We are confident that they will continue to grow and trust more as time goes on.

“Beth is a sweetheart – she loves to be rubbed and really enjoys belly scratches from our grooms.

“Alex is the energetic youngster of the group, and he loves to run around, chasing up and down the paddock. In time, both youngsters will join the other donkeys at Hannigans Farm.”

Since the four donkeys arrived, there has been a new development – both Emily and Alina are in foal again.

Dawn adds: “Alex and Beth were separated both from their mothers a few weeks ago to be weaned.

“The decision has been made that Alex and Beth will now join the youngster group in Hannigans, and the mares can relax and prepare for their new foals’ arrival. 

“While we do have a no breeding policy at The Donkey Sanctuary, we do have mares that we rescue that sometimes come to us already in foal.

“Like their mothers, we offer these foals a home for life, whether that is with us at the sanctuary or through our rehoming scheme.”

At the owner’s property, the reduced group of donkeys is now easier to manage. To prevent further breeding there are no females left in the group.

David says: “This owner became overwhelmed trying to care for a group of eight donkeys. By reducing the group size and the chance of breeding, we have reduced the care burden to four donkeys which are more manageable for the owner.”

David has provided advice about basic donkey care and nutrition to the owner.

Along with DAFM, David will continue to monitor the donkeys and provide advice so that the owner can take full responsibility for the remaining donkeys.