The headquarters of the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary is not only home to over 400 donkeys but also houses an Overseas Department who work hard to improve the welfare of donkeys in the many different situations facing them and their owners throughout the world. A mobile unit working in Mexico recently met two working animals who contribute to their owners’ lives in very different ways.
Omar Prado Ortiz is a Donkey Sanctuary vet who works in a mobile team covering Mexico City and the surrounding area, providing care and advice to the owners of donkeys and mules in some of the poorest regions. Whilst donkeys in the UK are generally viewed as pets and enjoy a sedate lifestyle, for owners in overseas countries they are working animals, providing families with vital support in what can be difficult environments or under tough economic circumstances.
On a visit to La Soledad, Omar met a 33 year old man called Antonio Sanchez whose family had brought his mule to the mobile clinic for treatment. Since developing severe rheumatoid arthritis at the age of eight, Antonio has had to use a makeshift cart pulled by his mule as his only means of getting around. Although Antonio lives with his sister and her family, his illness has prevented him from being able to work and he often resorts to begging in order to survive. Omar found that Antonio’s mule was in a poor condition with a large sore on its back and straight away set about treating the wound. More importantly, Omar was able to offer Antonio advice on ways to keep his mule in good health to prevent the wound recurring in the future.
In spite of the high number of injured or sick donkeys that Omar sees, he can look to the future with some optimism. The teams work with schools and local communities promoting the concept that donkeys deserve good and fair treatment with a focus on children as donkey owners of the future. The success of The Donkey Sanctuary’s profile in these communities was highlighted when Omar met an 11 year old boy named Victor who had found an abandoned foal on the way home from school. After bringing the foal home and naming her Rufina, Victor made a visit to the mobile clinic as he wanted to find out how best to look after his new friend. The mobile veterinary clinics work hard to channel children’s natural enthusiasm for caring for animals through educational programmes. Omar was able to give Victor advice on feeding and caring for Rufina along with supportive information that can ensure that he can become a confident and positive donkey owner for years to come.
The Donkey Sanctuary has been working in Mexico City and the surrounding areas since 1984 and is based at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
While the Sanctuary’s work to improve donkey welfare is difficult and upsetting at times, some of the most rewarding cases are those involving people who clearly value and care about their donkeys, and welcome help to look after them better.