The Donkey Sanctuary aims to be ever more proactive and to reduce the need for rescue in the UK and internationally by improving the welfare of donkeys wherever they live.

Rescues come in many shapes and sizes, but most donkeys that get relinquished in the UK are elderly or rehomed donkeys whose owners can no longer cope. We also take in donkeys that have been newly castrated, or uncastrated young males that are difficult to handle and therefore unwanted.

The majority of donkeys that come into our care in Ireland are in the latter category and the advantage with this type of donkey is that, because they are generally young and healthy, we are able to castrate them, train them and rehome them relatively quickly.

UK rescues - the impact

The Donkey Sanctuary's welfare team works tirelessly to improve the lives of donkeys living in the UK and Ireland. The sheer impact of what's required to rescue abandoned or mistreated donkeys is perfectly encapsulated in the story of Laurel and Hardy's rescue.

Our welfare team received a call from a member of the public. With help from the local police we located their owner, and transported the donkeys to our nearest holding base to receive intensive care. It took six months to bring Laurel and Hardy back to a reasonable condition.

The staff involved in their journey to recovery included lorry drivers, vets, nurses, equine dentists, farriers, grooms, researchers and pathologists. As a charity, it is only thanks to our generous supporters that we were able to meet these costs. The pair now live a happy and safe life with us in Devon.

Ireland rescues - a huge challenge

In Ireland the desperate situation is clear to see. Our farms are full and we have had to find extra space to house the 300 donkeys a year coming into our care. Another 500 donkeys are cared for in holding bases. These donkeys need health checks, food, shelter, veterinary care and other regular treatments every year. In one year alone, costs for rescue, transport and care look set to reach a staggering £1.5 million.

Recently we conducted one of our largest rescues in Ireland. A concerned member of the public contacted The Donkey Sanctuary regarding a large group of donkeys roaming through a bog in County Meath.

Our donkey welfare adviser, Cathy, visited the bog to investigate and was greeted by 17 terrified, neglected donkeys with extremely overgrown hooves.

One female donkey with the most horrendously twisted hooves struck a chord with Cathy. Although she was in visible pain and discomfort, she was kind and gentle. We named her Breeze.

Breeze had not been treated by a farrier in several years and struggled to walk with the pain. All 17 donkeys received immediate veterinary and farriery attention and were transported to the safety and protection of The Donkey Sanctuary.

"Our ambitious plan is to ensure that every donkey in the UK can live a happy and healthy life."

Mike Baker, CEO, The Donkey Sanctuary

In the United Kingdom, the aim is to reach every single donkey by establishing a network of support for donkey handlers and professionals, such as veterinarians and farriers, and educating the public about the value of donkeys and the efficacy of what we do.

A key way to achieve this is to develop our existing UK centres so that they become regional hubs for all of The Donkey Sanctuary’s work.

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