Earlier this year, the RSPCA received a complaint about the plight of three donkeys in the West Midlands. They called upon The Donkey Sanctuary's welfare team for assistance, as the two organisations often work together on donkey and mule issues.
Two of our welfare officers, Molly Lloyd and Diane Sisley, met with the RSPCA officer to follow up the complaint.
They found Dumpling (aged 37), Suet (33) and Muffin (28) who were being kept within a small livery yard owned by an elderly lady. It was apparent that, due to poor health and financial constraints, the owner was finding it difficult to care for her three donkeys to the extent that their basic welfare needs were not being met.
One of the donkeys, Dumpling, was giving Molly and Diane an immediate cause for concern as she was lying down in extreme discomfort. The officers immediately called out a local vet. Dumpling was very thin, had neglected long front feet and open wounds on her back caused by a lice infestation. Magpies were also pecking at her.
The owner acknowledged that the veterinary care and specialist attention the donkeys needed was beyond her means and, thankfully, it was agreed that the Sanctuary would provide them with the care they needed.
Over the next couple of weeks, Diane visited Dumpling, Suet and Muffin regularly, and the Sanctuary's veterinary hospital staff liaised closely with the local vet treating the donkeys to ensure they would be fit enough to travel to the nearest 'holding base' located 28-miles away.
Thursday 4th October was a beautiful sunny day and brought the start of a new life for Dumpling, Suet and Muffin.
Molly and Diane met the Sanctuary's lorry driver at the yard and quickly and quietly led the three donkeys on-board.
It was a short journey which went well and Dumpling, Suet and Muffin were warmly welcomed by Sue and Ron Sharples, who often provide temporary livery to donkeys on behalf of the Sanctuary when they are not yet fit enough to travel to Devon.
A stable prepared with the deepest bed of shavings and straw banks had been arranged and the yard opened out onto a large paddock. All three donkeys seemed to delight in looking around and soon settled in the paddock grazing on the fresh grass. The donkeys' spirits lifted completely and Dumpling transformed from a donkey with no interest in life to one whose life was full of hope and happiness. She clearly revelled in the sunshine and was comforted to be with her two friends.
In the following weeks, all three donkeys had to undergo intensive treatment, particularly Dumpling and Suet. Dumpling's feet were in the worst condition but the farrier did a marvellous job re-shaping them, whilst poor Suet had one tooth growing into the side of her cheek which had to be completely removed by the dentist.
All three donkeys also received treatment for lice and Ron and Sue provided them with the best tonic of all - tender loving care.
On Wednesday 5th December the donkeys travelled to the main Sanctuary in Sidmouth.
However, Dumpling's health subsequently deteriorated over time. The Sanctuary's vet, who was treating Dumpling assessed her situation at length, but the long-term neglect of her feet had left her with no quality of life due to severe laminitis. The vet reluctantly concluded that it was in Dumpling's best interest to put her to sleep to prevent anymore suffering.
Only time will tell if Muffin and Suet will be able to deal with the loss of their friend.
How you can help
Any donation received, no matter how small, will be gratefully received. Your generous donation will be used to help us care for donkeys both here in the UK and worldwide.