On 25th November 2009 the founder of the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, was awarded the Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by University of Edinburgh in recognition of decades of dedicated charity work.
The award has been given in acknowledgment of Dr Svendsen’s pioneering work in the care and welfare of donkeys and also to recognise her founding one of the most successful animal charities in the world.
Having seen first hand the terrible living and working conditions of donkeys, Dr Svendsen registered The Donkey Sanctuary as a charity in 1973 to improve conditions for donkeys and mules throughout the world. The charity continues its work, both in the UK and overseas, providing care and treatment to donkeys and also acts as a point of reference and centre of excellence for vets around the world.
The Donkey Sanctuary has a sister charity, The Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys, which has been providing donkey riding therapy to children with additional needs and disabilities since 1975 and currently has five purpose-built centres throughout England. Plans are currently in progress for an additional two centres, one of which will be based at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Veterinary Studies, further strengthening the close bonds that years of research projects and studies have built.
Following the presentation ceremony Dr Svendsen said ‘I am enormously grateful to University of Edinburgh for granting me this Honorary Degree. On top of the pleasure that helping the donkeys has given me over the years, it is wonderful to find others who are also keen to recognise the important contribution that donkeys have made to mankind. All the work that has been achieved over the years at the Sanctuary has given me great satisfaction and I am enormously proud of the staff and all our supporters who work so hard to make life better for donkeys throughout the world.’
Dr Svendsen was awarded the MBE in 1980 and an Honorary Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in 1992 from University of Glasgow. Having retired as Chief Executive in 2006, she continues in her role as Founder which entails her promoting the charities’ work in the UK and overseas along with giving advice to the Executive Team when needed.