Neglected donkey foursome rescued from debris-ridden, dangerous field

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All of the donkeys had overgrown hooves, were either underweight or overweight, and had lice and scald.
All of the donkeys had overgrown hooves, were either underweight or overweight, and had lice and scald.

A group of neglected donkeys who were found living in a dangerous and ragwort-infested field in Britain is now safe in the care of international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.

The donkey, Parsley, Sage, Saffron and Sorrel – affectionately known as ‘The Herbs’ – were discovered living among loose electric fencing tape, piping, exposed nails and plastic wrapping, which was strewn across their field near York.

Alongside the dangerous debris, the donkeys were also exposed to noxious plants including ragwort, which can cause liver damage to equines and other livestock animals. It can be fatal.

On arrival at the site in July 2021, The Donkey Sanctuary’s Head of Welfare Hannah Bryer discovered an area of the paddock also needed repair, and a loose length of fencing tape was strewn across the field, which could have caused the donkeys serious injury if they became entangled.

Bryer could see the donkeys were all in poor condition and needed urgent veterinary care. The bones of Parsley’s neck, shoulders, spine, ribs and hindquarters were easily felt, and she saw areas of muscle wastage

“Parsley’s coat was matted and infested with lice, and his feet were overgrown and in need of farriery care.

“He was visually very underweight and worryingly he was also very quiet and subdued. Changes in condition and behaviour are often signs something is wrong so my priority was to get him checked over by a vet,” Bryer said.

Sage, left, and Parsely were among a group of four donkeys removed from a property in York.
Sage, left, and Parsely were among a group of four donkeys removed from a property in York. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Sage also had lice and was overweight with the development of fatty pockets over the ribs and hindquarters. Her hooves were also overgrown and she was lame, finding turning particularly difficult.

Saffron and Sorrel both had scabbed areas of skin across their neck, shoulders and limbs and their hooves were also overgrown.

“Although the owner had previously been given advice by the RSPCA to improve the conditions, we were unable to reach them and therefore we worked with the RSPCA, North Yorkshire Police and a local equine vet to safeguard the donkeys’ welfare,” Bryer said.

“After veterinary examinations, the donkeys were transported to a nearby holding base, where they received all of the necessary veterinary, farrier and dental treatment.”

After the donkeys were removed, the owner contacted The Donkey Sanctuary and later agreed to relinquish the donkeys into the care of the charity.

Byer said they are friendly, curious donkeys who had sadly found themselves in need of help.

From left, Parsley, Sorrel, Sage and Saffron are on the improve and may be candidates for rehoming.
From left, Parsley, Sorrel, Sage and Saffron are on the improve and may be candidates for rehoming. © The Donkey Sanctuary

“During their time at the holding base, they have needed lots of support to help them feel more confident when being handled and when the farrier comes to trim their feet.

“They continue to be monitored from a veterinary point of view and are currently receiving training to support their behaviour and will later be assessed to see if they are suitable for rehoming.”

Donkey Guardians are essential to The Donkey Sanctuary, providing safe loving homes for hundreds of donkeys. The Rehoming Scheme helps free up space in the charity’s sanctuaries for donkeys who require more specialist care.

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