Our regional centres (Belfast, Birmingham, Ivybridge, Leeds and Manchester) are reopening to visitors at select times from Saturday 2 October.
Our regional sanctuaries, which have been closed since the start of the pandemic, will be reopening from Saturday 2 October.
However, due to the impact of the pandemic, we are changing our opening times to weekends – Saturday weekly and one Sunday a month.
There is an online booking system with limited tickets for morning and afternoon visits. The visit will remain free of charge but a ticket will be essential for you to gain entry.
We are taking these steps to keep our donkey-care staff and the people that use our service as safe as possible. We hope you understand.
Our Sidmouth sanctuary remains fully open and pre-booking is not required.
We give our donkeys freedom to roam and the choice to interact with visitors. This means that during your visit, the donkeys may be grazing in their paddocks, relaxing in a barn, or taking part in an enrichment activity that we offer our donkeys to help keep them stimulated and engaged.
Our regional centres are open during the following times:
Saturdays (From 2 October): 10am - 12noon and 1pm - 3pm
First Sunday of the month (From 7 November): 10am - 12noon and 1pm - 3pm.
We are currently offering time slots through our booking system for either a morning or afternoon appointment. These slots can be booked for free online.
Please note, these times are subject to review in response to changing regional and national government guidelines.
Why do I now have to book an appointment?
Due to the smaller size of the teams that work within our regional centres, the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers is paramount. The booking system allows our centres to operate within their maximum capacity numbers for COVID security, aligning with local government recommendations in response to the changing situation. It also allows for a more personal experience for on-site visitors.
What if I do not have access to the internet or relevant device to book online?
If you do not have access to the internet or a relevant device to book online, you can telephone the regional centre you are interested in visiting and they can book an appointment for you if one is available.
Do I have to pay to book?
Booking and entrance into all our centres is free of charge. As our charity relies purely on the generosity of the public, you are more than welcome to contribute a donation while you are visiting the site.
Can I book to come every weekend, or a morning and an afternoon slot on the same day?
Please be aware that the number of appointment slots is limited. To ensure that the booking system remains fair and that everyone gets a chance to see our lovely donkeys, please do not make repeat bookings covering consecutive weekends or two slots on the same day.
Do I have to book an appointment for a child?
Appointments need to be booked for children five years and over. Children under five do not require an appointment. Children over the age of twelve can be booked as an adult. We welcome pushchairs on site.
What if I cannot attend my appointment?
If you cannot attend the appointment you have booked, please cancel it by calling the centre you wish to visit. As you will appreciate, appointments to visit our donkeys are in high demand, so by cancelling an appointment you cannot attend, you are freeing up this slot for other supporters.
Do I need to print off my booking confirmation?
You will need to provide proof of confirmation of your booking. If you cannot print your booking confirmation, please have your confirmation email ready to show a member of staff on your phone. If you are unable to book online and you do so by phoning the centre, we will provide you with instructions about how to verify your booking upon entry.
During your visit
What measures are in place to keep staff and visitors safe?
Our centres have one-way routes in place to maintain safe visitor flow around site.
We have a number of hand sanitiser stations located in key areas around the site.
Our staff continue to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
We have introduced enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the day, which seek to disinfect high-frequency touch points.
Our booking system allows for the number of visitors on site to be managed in a safe Covid-19 way.
We politely request that visitors do not visit the sanctuary should they start displaying any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19, including a high temperature or a new, continuous cough.
For the safety and reassurance of our staff and our volunteers, The Donkey Sanctuary requests that you wear face coverings while using our indoor areas.
What can I expect from my visit?
As always, our staff will be on hand to talk to visitors about the donkeys, including those on the adoption scheme. Visitors will have the chance to see the different areas in which the donkeys live, learn about how we care for them, discover the dynamics of the herd and get answers to all questions that they may have about our donkeys.
Are dogs allowed on site?
Belfast - Dogs are not allowed on site.
Birmingham - Well-behaved dogs are welcome on site but they must be kept on a lead at all times. However, please note there is no access for dogs in the refreshment serving area.
Ivybridge - Well-behaved dogs are welcome on site but they must be kept on a lead at all times. However, please note there is no access for dogs in the refreshment serving area.
Leeds - Well-behaved dogs are welcome on site but they must be kept on a lead at all times. However, please note there is no access for dogs in the refreshment serving area.
Manchester - Well-behaved dogs are welcome on site but they must be kept on a lead at all times. However, please note there is no access for dogs in the refreshment serving area.
Are there toilets on-site?
All of our centres have toilet facilities on site, including disabled access toilets.
Do you offer on-site parking?
All our centres have on-site parking. Please be aware that there may occasionally be local access restrictions to cars at some centres. This will be highlighted on the booking system, but if you are unsure please contact the centre you wish to visit for more information.
Is your site accessible for wheelchairs users?
All of our centres are wheelchair accessible, including our toilet facilities. The majority of our paths are flat to allow full access around the site. For any specific questions about disabled accessibility, please contact the centre you wish to visit for more information.
Are there any refreshments?
Our centres provide light refreshments, such as a selection of hot and cold drinks and snacks.
What do I need to wear when I visit?
It is advisable to check the weather on the day you are visiting and come prepared (warm clothes in the winter months!). Wellies are not required, as our visitor areas are not muddy. All of our centres have indoor visitor spaces if the weather is inclement.
How long can we stay when we visit?
We have allocated two-hour time slots per appointment to allow plenty of time for visitors to explore the site, see the donkeys and enjoy refreshments if they wish. We ask visitors to arrive no more than 15 minutes before or after their appointed time to allow for entrance and parking, and to leave promptly at the end of your appointment to allow for cleaning in between slots to adhere to Covid-19 protocols.
Can I come in if I arrive early?
Please aim to arrive no more than 15 minutes earlier than your appointed time slot. Our staff carry out several donkey welfare tasks in the morning, such as feeding, cleaning and health checks, so will not be able to let you in before your appointed time.
What happens if I arrive late?
We understand that everyone experiences delays. Please contact the centre you are visiting to let them know if you think you may be late for your appointment. We hope you understand that because our time slots are in place to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines, we will not be able to extend your appointment. The gates to the site will be shut during your visit to ensure that capacity numbers are managed.
Do I have to wear a mask when I visit?
For the safety and reassurance of our staff and our volunteers, The Donkey Sanctuary requests that you wear face coverings while using our indoor areas, unless medically exempt.
Why did your Sidmouth site open earlier than your other sites?
We were pleased to be able to open our Sidmouth headquarters earlier this year because we have larger teams who work with our donkeys at the site. Our regional centres in Belfast, Birmingham, Ivybridge, Leeds and Manchester have significantly smaller teams, which meant we weren’t able to open these sites at the same time as having to work under very robust Covid-19 protocols. We want to make sure that our donkeys receive the highest standards of care and that our team and visitors are protected, which we are now able to achieve at our regional centres.
Are you still doing group visits for children?
We will not be offering visits to children’s groups before the October 2021 half term. For specific enquiries about group bookings such as these, please contact the centre you wish to visit for more information.
Is there a gift shop?
We have gift shops on site that reflect a selection of the products sold through our Online Shop.
Will I be able to see my adoption donkey?
Every centre has at least two adoption donkeys. You’ll be able to see your adoption donkey as part of their herd, where the staff will be able to talk to you about your adoption donkey’s history, characteristics, antics... everything that makes them who they are. Our adoption donkeys are always treated as part of their wider herd, so please understand that you are coming to see our whole herd of donkeys, of which your adoption donkey is a part.
As such, we do not bring adoption donkeys over to adopters individually, as we respect their freedom of choice to move around the fields. All animals benefit from having choice in their day-to-day routine and giving donkeys freedom to roam lets them choose a way of engaging with their environment that suits their needs best, whatever their character. If your adoption donkey is not in view, more often than not they will appear as they move within their environment if you wait patiently. We have done all we can to make sure visitors have access to as many viewpoints as possible, but we thank you for your understanding that, with animals who have freedom of choice, not every donkey will be in view all of the time.
Can we bring food for the donkeys?
Please DO NOT feed the donkeys. Their diets are carefully managed by our staff to make sure they receive the appropriate food. This also includes hand-picked grass. You are welcome to bring a selection of donkey treats (please see the area of our website describing safe treats for donkeys here). Our staff will receive your kind food donation and incorporate it into the donkeys’ carefully controlled diets.
Can I stroke the donkeys?
If the donkeys come over to the fence where you are standing, then of course feel free to stroke them. Be aware that some donkeys can be shy about having their ears and facial area touched, but they often like to be stroked and scratched on their back and their shoulders. Please follow advice from the staff on site – they know the donkeys very well. Please make sure you wash your hands after interacting with any of the donkeys.
Can donkeys transmit Covid-19 to humans, and vice versa?
There is no evidence that people can catch Covid-19 from donkeys, nor is there evidence that donkeys can catch Covid-19 from humans.