Christmas is just as special to us at our sanctuaries today as it was over 50 years ago, when the charity was formed by one woman with a clear mission: to do right by donkeys the world over.

Over 50 years of care at Christmas

In 1969, our founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen rescued a donkey named Naughty Face, and quickly got herself onto Santa’s 'Nice List'. Over 50 years later we’re still providing warm beds and a hearty meal every Christmas morning for donkeys in need.

Dr Svendsen and Naughty Face
Dr Svendsen with her first donkey, Naughty Face.
Full size

Dr Svendsen, or Dr S as she was affectionately known, devoted her life to making the world a better place for donkeys and mules. She pioneered our welfare work both in the UK and across the world, and laid the foundations for our Donkey-Assisted Therapy scheme, which continues to help vulnerable people develop key life skills today.

Sadly, after decades of devotion, Dr S passed away in 2011, but not before over 10,000 donkeys had trotted through the sanctuary doors and her life’s passion had evolved into a global charity. To this day, her vision remains at the heart of everything we do.

Hear Dr Svendsen speaking about her love for donkeys back in 2009...

When you adopt a donkey as a gift for someone close this Christmas, you are helping us to continue making the world a better place for donkeys and mules.

Send your support to donkeys this Christmas

Donkey enrichment at Christmas

We love how inquisitive donkeys are, so at Christmas, and throughout the year, we get them gifts that bring out the best in them.

Our donkeys love exploring their more curious side, as they would in the wild. We offer them different flavoured water which they sniff, lick and explore, and they love investigating a string of carrots tied up in their yard.

Seemingly every day objects make for fantastic enrichment toys for our herd: footballs and tyres are among their favourite playthings, but a wellie boot will often trump all other options of play.

See the donkeys in action, and find out more about enrichment from their grooms...

By adopting a donkey as a gift for a loved one this Christmas, you will be helping to ensure that every donkey in our care has a safe, warm and enriching environment to call home.

Featured in this video:


Shocks - a donkey with gifts that can't be wrapped up

Shocks was found barely alive on a farm in Ireland when our staff came across him in 2010. Nobody expected him to survive - let alone come to bring endless joy to the vulnerable children and adults he would come to meet over the years.

Shocks' was one of the worst cases of neglect our welfare team had seen. He had a developed a skin infection in his neck; rather than seek treatment, however, his owners had poured industrial-strength bleach into his wounds, tethered him to a pole and left him to die.

Following his rescue, Shocks was given ongoing vital veterinary care which eventually healed his wounds, but it was the months and years of care since that has helped Shocks grow in confidence and learn to trust humans again.

Shocks and Amber's magic bond

Now, Shocks is able to help vulnerable people develop their life skills at our centre in Birmingham, and live a life of sanctuary.

When a young girl called Amber first met Shocks, it was as though they had known each other for years. Despite having a fear of humans due to his mistreatment, when Shocks saw Amber approaching, he lowered his head so that she could wrap her arms around his neck.

Amber and her twin sister, Hope, were born 14 weeks premature, and Amber was rushed to hospital for an emergency tracheostomy. Doctors diagnosed Amber with Cerebral Palsy and said that she was unlikely to ever walk or talk.

As Amber’s mother, Tracy, said: “It was as if they understood each other’s pain. Like two broken beings, helping each other.”

We were amazed to see the gradual change in this timid donkey, as he blossomed and became friendly and confident. It was to prove an intense bond, and one that was to help both child and donkey - and change Amber’s world entirely.

When you adopt a donkey as a gift this Christmas, you are helping us provide lifelong care to animals with so much to give. In helping to change a donkeys' life, you could be helping the lives of vulnerable people across the United Kingdom, too.

Make Shocks your Christmas Hero

Adopt him as a gift for someone special this year

Why Adopt a Donkey this Christmas?

When you adopt a donkey as a gift, your ongoing support will be going directly towards the care of rescued donkeys in our UK and European sanctuaries, but it will also reach donkeys in need around the world too.

Your gift will buy food and medicine, pay for vets and farriers, and it will be used for education and training new donkey owners. Most importantly of all, it enables us to rescue helpless donkeys from hopeless situations.

What's included in the adoption pack?

  • Two gorgeous portraits of your donkey
  • A display frame for your portraits
  • Four beautiful postcards to share
  • Your adoption certificate
  • Your keepsake membership card
  • And a guide to getting the most from your adoption

Last minute gift?

No problem! Order before 16 December 2020 to guarantee receiving an adoption pack before Christmas.

If you order after this date, you can download an adoption certificate from your confirmation email and we will send your adoption pack as soon as we possibly can.

Continue our founder's vision... spread Christmas cheer to donkeys worldwide.