The Donkey Sanctuary is a large and complex charity with a wealth of experience and skills enabling us to help donkeys and mules around the world. Meet some of our key people.
Mike Baker - Chief Executive Officer
Mike was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of The Donkey Sanctuary in May 2016, continuing a long and distinguished career associated with the animal welfare sector.
With a lifelong passion for animal welfare, Mike has worked at the highest level with animal charities for over 20 years, including World Animal Protection, The Brooke and the International Fund for Animal Welfare UK (IFAW).
Linda Edwards - Executive Director of Operations
Linda joined the Donkey Sanctuary as Executive Director of Operations in October 2017; as a multi-disciplinary leader she has over 15 years humanitarian, development and management experience gained while living and working across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Pacific Asia.
Her roles have included regional director for Asia Pacific for an international social business and several country director roles. She has managed teams upwards of 1,000, raising multi-millions in funds and developing new systems to promote efficiency. Her most recent position was as CEO for a charity focused on programmes in Africa.
An animal lover, Linda has two Congolese street dogs, Binti and Kuku.
Faith Burden - Director, Research & Operational Support
Faith has worked for The Donkey Sanctuary since 2004 and has expanded and developed research programmes and technical support services. The author of over 50 peer-reviewed articles, she is a globally recognised expert on the health and welfare of donkeys and mules. She leads our research and operational support team which provides technical guidance and support to donkeys globally, and works to increase our knowledge of these wonderful animals.
Faith has a PhD in infectious diseases, and has been responsible for revolutionising the way in which our donkeys are managed. She has worked with commercial feed companies to design and produce donkey-friendly products, and alongside care providers to implement positive changes based on cutting edge science.
Annie Brown - Director, Rescue & Rehoming
Annie is responsible for the care and welfare of approximately 7,000 donkeys and mules across our sanctuaries, emergency holding bases and through our rehoming scheme in the UK, Ireland and many parts of Europe.
She has been involved with The Donkey Sanctuary since 1991, working in the accounts and welfare departments, developing and running the Training Centre and teaching staff and prospective Donkey Guardians about donkey care.
Since 2001 Annie looked after all the UK farms and is now responsible for our entire rescue and rehoming operations.
Caron Whaley, Director of Donkey-Assisted Therapy
Caron has worked with the Donkey-Assisted Therapy team since 2015, supporting the delivery of a life skills programme for vulnerable people. She combines Masters degrees in both Project Management and Organisational Psychology with 35 years of equine experience.
She studied for three years with the award-winning horse trainer and best-selling author Monty Roberts, becoming one of his International Certified Instructor. Caron spent 20 years specialising in remedial horses and equine-facilitated learning in various international locations, only returning to the UK prior to joining the Sanctuary. She has since led the team in revolutionising the Donkey-Assisted Therapy service to benefit a wide demographic of vulnerable people while elevating the donkeys to teachers, something that has gained international media attention.
Kevin Brown - Assistant to Programmes Director
Kevin joined the International Department of The Donkey Sanctuary in October 2013, and is currently responsible for international work in over 30 countries, supporting projects that improve the welfare of donkeys and mules and the livelihoods of the people that own or work them.
Brought up in South East Asia, Kevin studied Biology in England and researched his PhD in the deserts of Oman. He stayed in academia for five years managing international rural development projects, leaving to become a student again, in veterinary medicine. As a vet, he spent six months in Haiti managing an international disaster relief project for animals after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Joining The Donkey Sanctuary, his job combines his international and veterinary experience.
Hannah Bryer - Head of Welfare
Hannah was appointed as head of the Welfare Department in October 2018. Previously, she was the senior donkey welfare adviser, a role which she started in April 2015. She leads and supports our dedicated team of welfare advisers who work across England, Scotland and Wales to improve the welfare of donkeys and mules in our communities.
Hannah holds a degree in Equine Science and has really enjoyed getting to work more closely with donkeys. Hannah has previously worked in animal welfare and her experience in this field is of particular benefit when working to resolve situations where the welfare of donkeys and mules are compromised.
Alex Mayers - Head of Programmes
Alex has worked with The Donkey Sanctuary’s global teams since 2014, now leading special programmes to tackle welfare issues around the world. Before moving into this role, Alex focused on community and education projects and has worked directly with partners on the ground in over 20 countries, especially when leading on grant-funded work across Africa. One of his current areas of focus is the donkey skin trade which has horrific consequences for donkey welfare but also has implications for human development, wildlife crime, environmental degradation and more.
Before joining charity, Alex led various projects around the world including a major teacher development project in Borneo with the British Council and Malaysian Ministry of Education.
Dawn Vincent - Head of Communications
As the granddaughter of The Donkey Sanctuary’s founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, Dawn grew up with donkeys and began her career here as a press officer before becoming head of communications. Her responsibilities have included managing visitor engagement at the main Sidmouth sanctuary, publishing the newsletter that’s sent to supporters, and gaining the organisation publicity through press, broadcast and social media activity.
Dawn’s communications work has taken her to the frontline of operations in the UK and overseas in countries such as Ethiopia and Egypt, sharing first-hand experiences of how donkeys benefit from our care and how they are of value to people all over the world.
Simon Pope - Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager
Simon joined The Donkey Sanctuary in 2016, bringing a wealth of international animal welfare charity experience to his role, which involves managing the organisation’s communications for its rapid response projects and campaigns. These include emergency relief initiatives for animals and people affected by natural and man-made disasters, and campaigns such as Under the Skin, which tackles the unsustainable trade in donkey skins for China’s ejiao production.
Ben Hart - Senior Lead, Behaviour
Ben now leads the organisation in the understanding and implementation of scientific principles of equine behaviour and human behaviour change for animal welfare. Having been part of the training team running courses on donkey care and welfare, he recently joined the research and operational support team.
He has spent 20 years working as an equine and human trainer and is the author of several books on equine behaviour and clicker training, as well as the creator of a unique series of individual equine training plans.
Valentina Riva - Advocacy Manager
Valentina joined The Donkey Sanctuary in 2016 as advocacy manager for the organisation’s newly established Advocacy Unit. Collaborating with the charity’s other departments, she plays a key role in raising awareness of the value of working donkeys and mules for the people who depend on them for their livelihood. She works closely with international organisations such as the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Bank and the World Organisation for Animal Health, to secure the inclusion of provisions to protect working donkeys and mules in their policies. She coordinates these advocacy activities at national level, manages external consultants addressing specific topics, and represents The Donkey Sanctuary in animal welfare-focused international coalitions such as the International Coalition for Animal Welfare and International Conference on Water and the Environment.
An Italian who speaks fluent English, French and Spanish, Valentina has worked in Brussels, in communications for the European Parliament before joining the Animal Welfare Unit at the European Commission. Following her EU experience, she began working for animal protection charities and was EU Public Affairs and Trade Specialist for World Animal Protection.