Newsletter Spring 2004
Cassie enjoying last Summer
As 2004 began for many people with all kinds of problems and personal traumas, the Sanctuary had its own losses but also a wonderful bonus as for the second year running the Department of Agriculture saw fit to make and ex-gratia payment towards our work with the donkeys, horses and ponies. Last year we were awarded almost €4,500 for building a small and now very popular information centre.
This year we have been awarded €7,000 towards the cost of buying a horse trailer, fencing off the new 4 acres of land which we bought last year with a personal legacy, building a field shelter on it and planting up a shelter belt of trees around its periphery. This in time will take some of the excess water out of the land whilst concurrently providing a wind-break for animals and humans alike. We are extremely pleased to be entrusted with these extra funds with which to improve conditions for our equine friends.
In terms of losses we had to say goodbye first to little Lucky Biscuit, our black Shetland pony whose damaged and arthritic joints finally became too painful for her to have any real quality of life, and later to Cassie.
"Biccy" was the most beautiful, adorable and wonderfully gentle pony anyone could ever wish to meet so it was a sad day indeed when we realised we would have to let her go. Cassie too had suffered increasing problems with arthritis in her fetlock and pastern joints but also demonstrated internal discomfort which, both fortunately and unfortunately, erupted into full blown pain while the vet was in attendance. Despite painkillers she found no relief and was put to sleep immediately.
Biccy enjoying last summer and again, comfortable with donkey friends
For those of you who have sponsored either Biccy or Cassie and have not already received notification, may we thank you from the heart for making their last years as happy as possible. If you wish to change your sponsorship to another donkey, horse or pony just let us know, otherwise their remaining 35 friends will all reap the benefit of your kindness.
Our last newsletter promised news of Clara, a lovely but laminitic pony relinquished to us from Pegasus - Horses Help People, a charity at Grange which specialises in riding for people with special needs. Clara is happily in a caring foster home as a much needed companion for another elderly Connemara pony called Kalinka who had recently lost her long time friend. By sheer co-incidence Kalinka's friend was grey in colour and wore a green outdoor rug. Clara is grey (almost white when clean!) and wears a green rug. Kalinka took to her new companion without hesitation and now the two are inseparable, living out on poor quality grazing land with plenty of acres and loads of natural shelter.
Clara in the forefront with friend Kalinka
As this provides a variety of nutrients in the grazing/browsing, coupled with the need for constant exercise in order to get enough food (essential for the circulation in laminitic ponies) but is not stressful in terms of either shelter or loneliness, we are hopeful that Clara will be able to co-exist with Kalinka without laminitic problems for many years. Obviously the springtime with its flush of rich, new grass is the most dangerous time for Clara, but her current grazing will produce very little grass over a prolonged period, which should suit her well. We are not out of the woods but hopeful....
October saw the return of Amanda Hammond, an animal loving artist from South Africa who had spent five weeks with us during the summer of 2003, voluntarily helping with some of the Sanctuary work.
On her return to SA, Mandy decided she really wanted to spend more time with the donkeys and asked if she could return for a year as a part-time (going on full-time!) worker in exchange for accommodation. Our long-term tenant, Martin Byrne, who has himself been of enormous help to the Sanctuary over the years, moved elsewhere in the neighbourhood and Mandy eventually moved in the "Top House" so she could live on site for 24 x 7 help as and when necessary.
Mandy's assistance has been invaluable, especially through a very difficult period when problems with the Sligo SPCA landed us with an extra workload of welfare calls and a huge administrative tangle to sort out. She and the donkeys have a mutual love affair and the help is great!
A total lack of horse sense
Pony wintering in unsuitable conditions
Through a general lack of welfare facilities for horses and ponies we find ourselves increasingly involved in their welfare cases and have been called to several instances where these noble animals were being kept in conditions similar to the photograph shown. Liquid mud and manure well over their fetlock joints, broken down feeders and old scrap tin lying around, no bedding and sometimes no shelter either.
Where a shelter is provided it is often even dirtier inside than outside. Unbelievably, as long as these animals are being fed, watered and are not visibly in poor condition, lame or wounded, it is extremely difficult to prove a case of cruelty.
More often than not we rely on the back-up of Gardai and the county vet to try and enforce a change of circumstances and even then it is not always possible.
To us it is an abysmal situation that any animal should live in such squalor for possibly 5 or 6 months in the year so we ask all our readers to report immediately any such cases they come across or hear about, to ourselves, their local county vet or their local Gardai. The more noise we can make the better the chance of making a change for the better in the future.
Copper, the SSPCA's 16.3hh, 25 year old resident Irish draught mare joined us when the couple who were living at the SSPCA Shelter were asked to leave. She was delighted to enjoy the company of Taus, Nancy and the mules for a number of weeks, then, as she formed a special relationship with the two little mules, Taus and Nancy were recently returned to their usual grazing fields a couple of miles away. Until or unless a special foster home can be found for Copper, she will remain here with her new friends.
A new horse welfare charity
Happily for the horses Sharon Newsome and a small but dedicated band of animal lovers have set up a registered charity called The Irish Horse Welfare Trust which is based in Co. Wicklow. Before Christmas, the Sai Sanctuary was pleased to become their local "watchdogs" and welfare officers on a voluntary basis. So far we have been limited by our facilities and the type of land available to us for grazing, but with the IHWT's greater networking system, we hope to become more active for the bigger horses and ponies as well as the donkeys.
For many years we have habitually attended as many as possible of the local horse fairs, sales and marts and have recently been visiting one on a regular basis, not always happy with the results.
In October we actually bought an 8 year old 16hh draught mare in atrociously skeletal condition (before she went through the sales ring) but were obliged to pass her onto someone else to nurse as we do no currently have facilities here to isolate and nurse a large horse.
Happily the mare recovered well once she was properly wormed, fed, rugged and given shelter. Shortly after this incident we met up with Sharon and the IHWT and were pleased to learn that in such circumstances they would be able to find a suitable foster nurse until the mare was strong enough to travel to their facilities in Co. Wicklow to be rehabilitated and hopefully rehomed.
In November we were appalled to see a grossly deformed horse foal standing uncomfortably in a pen and were told he had been sold for €20! Despite enquiries we were unable to find out who had bought him but hope it was a kind soul who would give him a few days' love and comfort before putting him to sleep. His presence at a horse sale at all represented a gross carelessness on the part of the owner, who should, in my opinion, have had the foal put to sleep soon after birth. He deserved to be prosecuted for asking the creature to endure the journey to and from a horse mart plus the hours of standing around in a cold pen, being pushed around by other much larger horses.
In January we photographed this little donkey going through the sale ring - again with a noticeable deformity to his spine but one which did not seem to cause him either discomfort or restriction of movement through he was wet, shivering and was being manhandled around by a thin rope tied several times around his neck. This mart is privately owned and despite these reports is not the worst run mart in the country. However, it needs little imagination to see that improvements for the future are essential.
Horse Sales Once again we appeal to everyone with a conscience to please report cases of mishandling and ill treatment of donkeys, ponies and horses at fairs, sales and marts so we can work with a network of other welfare societies to build a dossier of case histories. Only with sufficient evidence will it be possible to demand changes in the animal welfare laws to protect animals in these circumstances. Without these changes at a fundamental level it is not reasonable to expect much improvement from individual marts which are often over busy and under manned. This mart is not the only one which regularly sees young boys of possible 9-12 years old "working" in the pens with the donkeys and foals, attempting to herd the animals from pen to pen with the aid of a stick or rubber hose, a great deal of bad language and no experience at all!
Volunteers, Helpers and Donators
We have many lovely people to thank again in this newsletter including "old" names live Brendan Kilcullen, Ingrid and Jurgen Handel, David and Rebecca Lillie, Inge and Elke and all you wonderful people who contribute in so many ways - far too many to mention but deeply appreciated nonetheless.
New faces include Danielle Mooney, Eiofe and Siobhan Savage, all Sunday volunteers from St. Mary's College, Ballisodare, whose parents are to be admired for taxi-ing them to and from the Sanctuary for their mucking out and grooming duties.
Thanks also go the Carina and Colin, Cliona and Tony who regularly come over to help at the weekends when visiting from Dublin; to Jim and Claire for help with fixing things and VERY special thanks to Antjie Henn who has spent an enormous amount of personal time, energy and resources organising a painting/colouring competition through the National Schools. This has the double edge of being both educational for the children and a fundraiser for the Sanctuary. (More in the next newsletter). A huge thank you to you all.
Just as this newsletter was about to be printed we were deeply saddened by the news of the death of Fiona Mills of Ardcotton, Collooney. Fiona and her lovely husband Noel have been staunch supporters of the Sanctuary for many years, giving generously of their resources and visiting often to enjoy the donkeys and bring them tit-bits. Our deepest sympathies go to Noel at this devastating time and with full hearts we pray that when he has had some healing time to himself he will continue to visit and hopefully receive some solace from the affectionate little animals Fiona loved so much.