Demography, preventative healthcare and reason for relinquishment of donkeys to an equine charity in the UK (2013‐2015)


In the UK, there are thousands of donkeys being cared for by charities; however, little is known about the reasons for relinquishment or their previous health status, with even less information available in published literature. Such information could help to identify factors contributing to poor equine welfare and guide the development of appropriate educational resources.


To describe the characteristics of the relinquished donkeys and to better understand the current preventative healthcare status of donkeys relinquished into The Donkey Sanctuary.

Study design

Cross‐sectional observational survey.


A total of 596 donkeys were admitted during a 30‐month period. Each had a health check at arrival; and previous management information was provided by the owner. Data were retrieved from The Donkey Sanctuary database, inputted into a specific Microsoft Access 2016 database then exported for analysis in IBM SPSS 19.0 for Windows®. Mules and ponies were excluded from the study.


Many donkeys arrived without a valid passport (32.3%) or microchip (49.7%). Only 23.2% were fully protected against influenza and tetanus and 21.0% of the donkeys had no previous anthelmintic treatment history. Geriatric donkeys often suffered from moderate to severe dental disease in need of advanced treatment, and 43.9% had received no dental treatment within the last year. Overall 26.3% of donkeys were classed as overweight and 8.6% were obese. The median time since the last hoof trim was 10 weeks.

Main limitation

The health status of the studied donkeys may have been affected by the reasons for relinquishment, and associations require further investigation.


This study highlights the need for improving preventative healthcare in donkeys to ensure better welfare within the population.

Publication date