Just outside the picturesque seaside town of Sidmouth in Devon, within an oasis of tranquil unspoilt farmland and countryside, sits the Donkey Sanctuary. Here, abandoned, abused and unwanted donkeys find care, food, companionship and shelter.
For nearly 40 years this sanctuary has provided a safe haven to over 400 of the 2,000 rescued and unwanted donkeys in its care at its various farms throughout the UK and Ireland. Set in unspoilt farmland and countryside, it’s hardly surprising that visitors return time and again to meander among the donkeys and absorb the serene and relaxed surroundings.
Despite its limited funds, no donkey is ever refused admission to the sanctuary, provided it has a certificate of fitness to travel, and each donkey is guaranteed a life of loving care and attention. In keeping with its purpose of animal welfare, the charity never buys or sells donkeys and has a non-breeding policy.
However, relying solely on the generosity of the public can be tough, as there are thousands of mouths to feed daily, as well as the costs involved in running its 10 farms dispersed throughout the UK and Ireland where the donkeys reside.
During its almost 40-year history the Donkey Sanctuary has taken over 12,000 donkeys into its care. Many of these have been rescued after having been cruelly neglected while others come from loving homes for various reasons, perhaps due to a change in the owner’s circumstances, illness or moving house.
Founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen in 1969, the aim of the sanctuary is to prevent the suffering of these beautiful animals worldwide through the provision of high quality, professional advice, training and support on donkey welfare. In the UK and Ireland, permanent sanctuary is provided to any donkey in need of refuge.
As well as looking after donkeys, the sanctuary does everything it can to stamp out future cruelty towards these gentle creatures. Through a dedicated team of more than 60 welfare officers the sanctuary is able to investigate reports of cruelty to or neglect of donkeys, quickly and efficiently in a bid to stamp out such cases. The sanctuary also provides free advice and training courses on donkey care and management.
Not only does the sanctuary care for abandoned or abused donkeys in the UK and Ireland, it also has overseas projects in places such as Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Mexico, bringing urgent veterinary assistance to working donkeys in distress. Further projects exist in Europe, where many more donkeys need help.
Most recently, the Donkey Sanctuary has established a Spanish branch in Fuente de Piedra, near Malaga. El Refugio del Burrito has taken over 68 donkeys into its care. The first one it rescued was Romero, which had been used as a donkey taxi carrying tourists around the town of Mijas on the Costa Del Sol. Fortunately he can now look forward to a relaxing burden-free future at the sanctuary where his well-being will be the top priority. Similarly, every donkey lucky enough to arrive at the rescue centre is granted a well-deserved life of loving, expert care and attention.