Tips and recommendations for donkey owners for the safe transport of their donkeys to ensure their welfare standards are maintained.

Current UK legislation has strict transport guidelines relating to the movement of all commercial livestock. These restrictions do not yet apply to private animals but they may in the future. These recommendations are worth following in all situations to ensure optimal welfare standards are maintained. If you are taking your donkeys abroad, please ensure you check with your vet with regard to health certificates.

Tips

If you are loading/travelling donkeys for the first time or are not familiar with them then leave plenty of time for loading. Better still, if it is not an emergency, schedule a practice run beforehand. If this does not go smoothly then practise daily and maybe feed your donkeys in the trailer each time. Make the box and entrance as inviting as possible. Park the trailer carefully to block the escape route from the sides and reduce the ramp height. It is recommended to go for a short drive if the first journey planned is a long one. The driver must be competent at towing before driving with an animal on board.

Transport recommendations

  • All journeys made using the basic trailer towed behind a vehicle should not exceed a journey time of eight hours. If borrowing a trailer always thoroughly check floor, lights, ramp and catches for safety before travelling
  • Check the towing capacity of the vehicle with the manufacturer. Ensure the trailer complies with the legal requirements for road use, for example, tyres, brake cables, registration plate and spare wheel
  • A specially designed lorry is required for journeys exceeding eight hours, or those including a ferry or train journey. Sufficient space, ventilation, food and water must be provided
  • A donkey uses a lot of energy to maintain its balance while travelling. Careful driving can greatly reduce stress to the donkeys. Attention must be paid to ensure slow acceleration, braking and cornering
  • Choose the route most suited to ensure a smooth, continuous journey
  • Plan the journey carefully to avoid traffic delays as the ventilation within the box normally depends on forward movement. Have a map in case you need to look up an alternative route
  • Avoid travelling during the heat of the day during the summer
  • Bedding within a trailer or horsebox should be sufficient to absorb urine and faeces for the entire journey unless frequently cleaned out. It is ideal to have rubber matting and minimal bedding for comfort and support, ideally dust extracted bedding such as shavings. A reduction in amount of bedding improves the air quality within the box
  • Ensure you leave the box clean after use and ready for the next journey
  • Do not carry spare filled haynets on the outside of the vehicle/trailer as the hay or haylage will absorb pollutants from vehicle emissions
  • Carry a mobile phone, fully charged and with relevant telephone numbers on it, for example, vet, relative, destination contact, breakdown recovery, etc
  • If possible, take someone who is used to the donkeys with you
  • Carry drinking water and buckets (in the towing vehicle not the trailer)
  • Take the donkeys’ passports with you in case you are stopped by the police or need to call a vet
  • Take at least one spare head collar and lead rope
  • Carry a torch and first aid kit for personnel use and a fluorescent waist coat
  • Be prepared for minor injuries. Carry a first aid kit, a list of contents for a first aid kit and information on the treatment of wounds can be found on our Treating your donkey's wounds guide
  • Ensure the vehicle is adequately fuelled before you travel.

Your donkey

  • It is worth noting that most stress occurs at loading and unloading. Plan both stages to minimise stress by having experienced helpers, ideally familiar with the donkeys
  • It is best to take a supply of damp hay or haylage if the journey is a long one, or involves a rest stop
  • Some donkeys will not eat whilst travelling but the option must be available
  • Hay should ideally be fed from the floor to reduce the risk of entrapment in haynets
  • As donkeys can bond extremely strongly to other donkeys as well as other animals, it is very important to ensure any bonded companion animals travel as well. Failure to do so could result in extreme stress to the animals involved
  • Check your donkeys on board at the start of the journey for signs of distress
  • The onkeys should be checked and offered water every four hours
  • Rugs and bandages - generally we do not bandage our donkeys’ legs for travelling or apply tail bandages unless the donkeys sit on their tails. Overheating can be dangerous to donkeys and it is rarely necessary to fit a rug. However, take rugs with you just in case
  • If you should have to tie your donkeys up, ensure that their lead ropes are tied to a breakable piece of string attached to the rings
  • Ensure the donkeys have adequate ventilation at all times
  • Always ensure that the donkeys are fit to travel.

Further advice

Seek veterinary advice if in doubt and never travel if any of the following apply:

  • Unwell
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nasal discharge or respiratory disease
  • Lame
  • Heavily pregnant
  • Newly born foal (less than one week)
  • A suckling foal, without its mother.

Remember

  • Long journeys will involve a temporary reduction of feed and water intake, which has to be compensated for during the 24 hours following arrival
  • Travelling can prove stressful to the respiratory system so symptoms of breathing problems may be exacerbated
  • For your longer journeys it is advisable to take a list of contact numbers for travel, weather information and local veterinary practices just in case of emergency. Ensure you carry an up-to-date map
  • The stress of travel may exacerbate minor or pre-existing conditions.

If you are in any doubt with regard to travelling your donkeys, please contact your vet for advice.

Want to know more?

Information for donkey owners