A trio of neglected donkeys, who were found suffering from severely overgrown hooves and living in a field containing toxic plants, are now thriving in the care of international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.
After responding to assistance from the RSPCA in May 2020, Donkey Welfare Adviser Katana Ashby attended the address in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and discovered the group was in desperate need of veterinary attention.
With no shelter or access to water, the donkeys, named Laura, Big Ears and Snowy were confined to an open field that contained ragwort, a toxic plant that can be fatal to equines and other livestock if eaten.
The owner of the donkeys was overwhelmed by the number of animals in their care, meaning the basic needs of Laura, Big Ears and Snowy were not being met.
Nine-year-old mare Laura’s hooves were in the poorest condition. They had been left to grow very long and were curling up to show the sole of the hoof and twisting inwards, with abnormal growths at the top of the hoof.
Ashby said that when Laura walked, it was hard to watch. “She was taking small tentative steps as if she was walking on glass.
“When I saw her lying down for quite a long time without her friends, it made me quite worried as she appeared to be closely bonded with the other donkeys.”
Big Ears and Snowy were also in a poor condition. Big Ears’ brown coat was patchy, caused by constant rubbing from lice in the nine-year-old’s coat, while 12-year-old Snowy, the more reserved of the three, had long, overgrown feet.
Following initial assessments of the donkeys, Ashby met with their owner to find out more about their situation, and learned that she had many animals in her care. Because of the differing needs of all the species and the time and resources each one required, a decision had to be made about the future care of the donkeys.
The owner agreed to relinquish the donkeys into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, and the three were taken to a nearby local holding base, where they received care and veterinary attention.
Laura, Snowy and Big Ears’ journey next took them to The Donkey Sanctuary’s Axnoller Farm in southwest Dorset. They spent several weeks in the farm’s New Arrivals Unit where grooms could spend time building up their trust and confidence. The farm is 35 miles from The Donkey International headquarters in Sidmouth, and is home to more than 100 donkeys.
Since arriving at Axnoller, Laura, Snowy and Big Ears’ transformation has been very rewarding for all the team members who have been working with them.
When Laura was first introduced to the herd, she was quite reserved, so measures were put in place to help her adjust to the large group and build her confidence. Although still a bit quiet at times, she has thrived in her new surroundings and is a very inquisitive donkey.
Snowy was the most cautious of the trio but has formed a close friendship bond with Laura, and enjoys the company of her grooms.
Like Snowy, Big Ears also lacked confidence upon arrival. When the grooms walked by her unit, she was very aware of them, but with patience and lots of close attention, she has blossomed into a friendly, confident character.
The team at Axnoller Farm are working hard to continue building up the three donkeys’ trust. Axnoller Farm groom Laura Attwood said it was heartwarming to see how their characters have blossomed and their confidence has grown.
“We feel in time, we can work on building up more trust so these wonderful donkeys can enjoy the mutual benefits of living with one of our fantastic Donkey Guardians.
“If they end up not taking that road, they will have a safe, enjoyable home for life at The Donkey Sanctuary,” Attwood said.