How to care for your donkeys or mules if you become ill or have to self-isolate due to Covid-19.

As Covid-19 continues to spread, the impact of the virus is being felt by many communities around the world. Governments and health authorities are the best sources of advice on measures people should take to reduce transmission and risk of infection in their areas.

We are busy developing digital solutions to help us stay connected, and we want to reassure donkey owners that our welfare team is still on hand to offer support and guidance. You can contact our welfare office on 01395 578222 or via email welfare@thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk if you want to discuss any aspects of your donkey’s care.

Advice for donkey owners

If you are well and your donkeys are kept at home

  • Continue to interact with your donkeys as normal.
  • Apply good hygiene and biosecurity practices including washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching your animals.
  • Wear gloves or wash hands thoroughly before and after handling tools and equipment. This is particularly important where there is shared use e.g. wheelbarrows, field gates.
  • Ensure you have enough supplies of bedding and forage. Place orders in advance of these running out to allow for unforeseen delays.
  • Check current supplies of essential medication and speak to your veterinary practice to ensure requests for repeat prescriptions are made in good time.
  • Ask any visitors to follow good hygiene measures. This includes your vet, farrier, equine dental technician and other professionals.
  • Speak to our welfare team if you have any concerns or worries.
  • Develop plans to ensure your donkeys are cared for in the event you became ill or need to self-isolate.
  • Consider adapting your donkeys’ usual routine now so their management is realistic for those who may need to care for them if you are unable to do so.

If you need to self-isolate or find yourself unable to attend to your donkeys

  • Remember it is important to look after your own health and wellbeing.
  • Let us know – our welfare team can provide advice which may help with your planning.
  • Carefully consider if you are well enough to care for them yourself.
  • If you need to arrange for another person to care for donkeys at your address it is important that this is kept to a minimum and they have access without meeting anyone who is unwell or self-isolating.
  • Adapt your donkey’s usual routine to suit their needs and be realistic for those caring for them during this period.
  • Think creatively about how you can monitor them remotely – we have seen novel use of CCTV cameras and other monitoring equipment.
  • Make sure that contact details of your vet, farrier and other professionals are available to those caring for your donkeys and that they know who to contact in an emergency.
  • Consider additional enrichment opportunities which will help keep your donkeys entertained during this period.

If you have been diagnosed with Covid-19

  • Stay at home. You must not leave your house, unless you are being moved to hospital.
  • Remember it is important to look after your own health and wellbeing.
  • Our welfare team can provide advice which may help with your planning.
  • Inform your local health protection team that you have pets at home. They will inform the relevant animal health authorities. Given their limited resources it is unlikely they will be able to provide practical help, so you will likely need to arrange for another person to care for donkeys.
  • If your donkeys are kept at your address it is vital the person caring for your donkeys has access without meeting anyone who is ill or self-isolating.
  • Be realistic about the level of care your donkeys will receive during this period and adapt their usual routine accordingly.
  • Think creatively about how you can monitor your donkeys remotely – we have seen novel use of CCTV cameras and other monitoring equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do I do if my donkeys are not kept at home?

A: Travel to provide basic care to your donkeys should be considered ‘essential’ travel, however, please take steps to limit travel as far as possible and comply with all other government advice, especially around social distancing and hygiene practices.

Action: It is important to develop contingency plans in case further travel restrictions are implemented, or there is a change in your own circumstances. The advice in the guidance above may help you do this. Consider friends or family who may be able to care for your donkeys if you are unable to. Contact other donkey, horse or pony owners in the local area and develop shared contingency plans and share emergency contact details.

Q: Is the advice different depending on where I live in Great Britain?

A: There may be slight differences in guidance for livestock and equine owners depending on where you live . Please follow the advice from the English Government, Scottish Government or the Welsh Government.

Q: How will the restriction on non-essential travel impact on my vet and other professionals?

A: Vets and other professionals such as farriers and equine dentistry technicians will continue to provide treatment in an emergency. Official bodies such as The British Equine Veterinary Association and Farriers' Registration Council are providing professionals with guidance as they make necessary changes to their usual services to comply with the latest advice. This may include the delay of non-emergency veterinary care and the use of telemedicine in replace of physical visits. There may also be delays in the supply of some medications.

From Tuesday 14 April 2020 your vet may consider attending non-emergency visits and procedures. Your vet will risk assess each case individually and follow strict hygiene measures to keep you and their teams as safe as possible.

If you do need to contact your vet, it helps to be prepared. The British Equine Veterinary Association have produced a series of videos to help owners prepare to answer some of the questions your vet may ask you during a video call including instructional videos:

Action: Look out for any updates from your own vet and other professionals on their latest way of working. Follow any advice they give in relation to non-urgent cases. Create a ‘care plan’ for your donkeys, outlining their daily routine and ensure your vet and other emergency contact details are included. Knowing what is normal for your donkey when they are healthy will help spot when they are unwell, so include their normal temperature, breathing and heart rate if you know them. This information will be particularly important if someone else needs to care for your donkeys for any reason.

Q: What do I do if my donkey’s medication is running low and I need a repeat prescription?

A: Speak to your vet and order repeat prescriptions in good time. Please bear in mind that vets are making changes to their usual services as they respond to the latest government advice. There may be longer waiting times for deliveries and challenges with the supply of some medications.

Action: Work out how long your donkey’s current supply with last, make a note on your calendar and set an early reminder to make sure you don’t forget to give your vet a call.

Q: What do I do if my donkeys are due their vaccinations?

A: Contact your vet for advice in good time. Please bear in mind that vets are making changes to their usual services as they respond to the latest government advice. This may include the delay of non-emergency veterinary care and the use of telemedicine in replace of physical visits.

From Tuesday 14 April 2020 your vet may consider attending non-emergency visits, including 12-month booster vaccinations. Your vet will risk assess each case individually and follow strict hygiene measures to keep you and their teams as safe as possible.

Action: Look out for any updates from your own vet on their latest way of working. If changes to veterinary services have resulted in your donkey's vaccinations lapsing during this period, please speak to your vet on how best to address the missed vaccines.

Q: What do I do if it is time for my donkey’s worm egg counts?

A: As we concentrate our efforts on caring for those donkeys in highest need on our sanctuary sites, we are currently unable to offer routine worm egg counts via our UK lab. 

Action: Please speak to your vet if you require advice about worming. Please bear in mind that vets are making changes to their usual services as they respond to the latest government advice so you may not be able to speak to a vet directly.

Q: Will I still be able to buy feed and supplies?

A: Shops and animal feed stores are currently open for trading but wherever possible we recommend that you use a delivery service to limit non-essential travel.

Action: Identify what supplies you need. Remember to order in good time to account for delays in supply. Only order what you need. If you do need to travel to a shop, call ahead to check that they have what you need to avoid unnecessary journeys. Practice good hygiene and social distancing at all times.

Q: Can I still take my donkeys out for a walk?

A: Currently there is no official guidance on what activities can be included as your daily exercise. Walking with your donkeys is a great way to provide exercise and enrichment opportunities but at this time it is important for us all to avoid taking any unnecessary activity that may place additional burden on the emergency services.

Action: Consider other ways in which you can offer your donkeys opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation.

Q: What do I do if I can no longer keep my donkeys?

A: With the current restrictions preventing all non-essential travel, it is very unlikely you will be able to rehome your donkeys until these measures are lifted. The Donkey Sanctuary, like many other equine charities, receives a large number of calls every month from owners seeking alternative future care solutions for their donkeys. We are currently caring for 7000 donkeys across our sanctuary sites in the UK and Europe. Many of our resident donkeys have complex needs and require lifelong support. Space in sanctuary care is at a premium and reserved for those most in need of specialist care.

Our welfare team will be happy to discuss future care solutions and alternative rehoming options with you. The National Equine Welfare Council also recently published advice on responsible rehoming which you may find helpful.

Action: Contact our welfare team for further advice.

Q: What do I do if I can no longer afford to care for my donkeys?

A: We understand that in these unprecedented times many people are facing significant and unexpected changes to their normal lifestyles. Financial uncertainty will no doubt be a source of worry and present challenges for many donkey owners and equine charities alike.

Our welfare team will be happy to discuss your current situation and offer support and offer advice or suggestions which may help reduce the costs of caring for your donkeys. The National Equine Welfare Council also recently published advice on how to ‘cut costs not care’ which you may find helpful.

Action: The Government are continually updating their advice and support packages which will be available to businesses and families as we navigate through the current crisis. Keep up to date with this advice and find out what support is available to you. Contact our welfare team for further advice and to discuss future care solutions for your donkeys.

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