Our annual review outlines what a difference we made to donkeys' lives in 2018, with the following message from our Chief Executive Mike Baker.

In 2018 we achieved some great successes and I feel fortunate to have witnessed the results of so much vital work being carried out at our sanctuaries in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe, and by our projects around the world. We set the groundwork for our future goals, and are excited to embark on our new five-year strategy in our 50th anniversary year of 2019. This milestone will allow us all the opportunity to celebrate our history, while looking ahead to tackle large-scale issues such as the global donkey skin trade and our ambition to rehome more happy, healthy donkeys in the UK.

At home I experienced the dedication and compassion of staff and volunteers, from welfare advisers called out to rescue donkeys from neglect and abuse to the grooms, vets and farriers who maintain such high welfare standards for the donkeys in our care.

Just one of many such cases was the rescue of three mules – Maisie, Indie and Oscar – who were discovered in Scotland with painfully twisted feet and brought to our sanctuary in Sidmouth to start their journey to recovery. They were at first terrified even by those who wanted to care for them but, thanks to our experts in behavioural issues, the mules slowly became less stressed. In time, they were able to stand still while the farrier worked on their feet.

Although stretched for resources and full to capacity, we never turn away from these animals' needs. Last year alone, we rescued 350 donkeys in the UK and 129 in Ireland, where our sanctuaries are overwhelmed with cases of abandonment.

Our Rehoming Scheme sent out 223 donkeys in this period, and we’re grateful to both donors who enable us to give permanent care, and those Donkey Guardians providing loving homes in the wider community.

Further afield, we strive to make a sustainable difference to the lives of millions of donkeys and mules, serving some of the poorest communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our work throws a spotlight on the hugely important work that donkeys do to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Whether for harness-making workshops, animal welfare education for children, veterinary training for adults or tackling the crisis of donkeys being poached for the skin trade, we collaborate with a network of partners globally. For example, our partner in South Africa conducted 55 skin trade investigations, leading to nine court cases and saving many donkeys from the slaughterhouse.

Our response to such challenges combines grass-roots initiatives with advocacy and awareness-raising work. One of many signs of progress was during a visit to China, where we forged a groundbreaking partnership to improve equine welfare in the country, and also launched The Clinical Companion of the Donkey – a definitive new reference book aiming to improve the health and care of donkeys globally.

Our ability to transform the lives of animals that need us depends on persuading others that this will make a difference, not only for donkeys but for the people who depend on them. Our focus in the years ahead is to develop as a beacon for donkey welfare in the UK and globally. By seeking structural improvements in donkey welfare at scale with key allies and decision-makers, we can change the lives of far more donkeys than we ever could alone.

Mike Baker

Chief Executive