Newsletter Spring 2007

sunbathing donkeys

2007 started with the wonderful news that The Department of Agriculture had once again recognised our work with an ex-gratia payment of €10,000, for which we are extremely grateful. We are hugely indebted to the many friends of the Sanctuary who regularly donate amounts, both large and small, and who make it possible for the Sanctuary to function at a working level. We absolutely could not manage without this hardcore of caring, committed people, but likewise we need the backing of Governmental support to ensure a positive way forward into the future.

The Sai Sanctuary has grown to such an extent that it is no longer possible to run it purely on voluntary help. It is now necessary for us to employ an experienced person with knowledge of donkeys and other equines, the compassion to help the needy cases and the courage to tackle the heartrending welfare issues...... a tough order.


For personal reasons our previous employees, Peter and Else, had to return to Holland after only three months and confess they miss the donkeys very much.

We are happy now to introduce Jill, an experienced horsewoman who shares the passion to make Ireland a better place for donkeys, ponies, horses and mules, who joined us as trainee manageress in mid-January with the intention of making a long term commitment to equine welfare.



Towards the end of 2006 we were asked to take Brandy, a 12hh Exmoor pony, into care. His owners had bought him for their children admitting they knew nothing about ponies. Although they noticed the dent in his nose and the white marks over the nose and behind the ears, it was only when Brandy struggled for breath when being ridden that they realised there was something wrong and called the vet. Brandy was confirmed as being yet another victim of careless abuse: his foal slip or head collar had been left on while he was still growing and had embedded into his nose and behind the ears, damaging his nasal passages permanently. He is only 5 years old, healthy in every other way but rendered useless for the purpose for which he was bought - a child’s pony. However, he is a gentle, biddable character who would make a great companion or lead rein pony and we hope to find him a suitable foster home shortly.

Fairy snow


our 4 year old albino filly, has been trained for riding and so far proves to be as near bombproof as possible. Fairy requires a specialised home as she suffers with “sweetitch” (an allergy to midge bites), which although totally controlled with Freedom45 last summer, nevertheless demands more of a commitment to her well being than usual. Fairy is currently 14hh and would make a wonderful pony for an experienced young person to bring on.





Gwillan, who came to us as a totally unmanageable rig, grew into a handsome, friendly and lovable pony and was fostered as a companion to another, almost identical pony called Guinness. The two bonded immediately, although Gwillan is unquestionably the boss!





Bonnie and Shelley

Sadly the extreme wet and storms of the winter have taken the toll on our very old donkeys and shortly after losing Jennie in the Autumn, her friend Shelley became sick and died. Later, in March, Bonnie, who enjoyed a Paradisical life with Pandora and Bonnie in a caring foster home at Glencar, appeared to have a brain haemorrhage and despite making hopeful progress for a few days, suddenly took a turn for the worse and was euthanased on humane grounds.

Both Shelley and Bonnie were very elderly (over 30 years of age) and had been working donkeys in their youth. Shelley was relinquished when her owner died and the rest of the family were unable to look after her and Bonnie was rescued from appalling conditions by our then Farrier, who placed her in a foster home for five years before, through unfortunate circumstances, her foster-mum returned her to us at the Sanctuary. Bonnie was a tiny frail little person who benefited enormously from being in a smaller group and we shall be eternally grateful to Fiona and Mark for their dedicated care.


We also lost our other 14 year old sheep Trouble, twin to Hubble, who died last year. These two were amazing pets, much loved and appreciated by visiting children who often never got nearer to a sheep than seeing them “like maggots” in a distant field.

Our golden oldie group of the original working donkeys now consists of Noah, Solomon, Neddy Flat Tyres, Morestina, Neddy O’Shea and Maudie. Of the others, many are elderly but we have no proof that they ever worked.


Now we see the welfare trend turning more toward young stock, specifically male donkey foals from 4months to 2 years, many of which end up as surplus to requirements at sales and fairs. With the exception of the occasional outstanding stallion these little guys rarely sell for over €200 and often for appreciably less, partly because they are not “good” enough to become stallions, and mostly because buyers do not want the hassle or the expense of castration (around another €200). And they don’t give birth to foals!


In mid December a local mart had 6 such young colts for sale. All were in pitiful condition with backbones and hips sticking out, coats matted and a general air of fear and dejection. Two of the younger ones of around 5-7months old, had pneumonia. On this occasion we worked with Ernie Somerville, welfare officer for The Donkey Sanctuary and with full cooperation of the mart manager, and after many hours managed to secure a vet who allowed the two older, bigger donkeys to be sold at the end of the day to private buyers, on condition that their welfare was followed up and monitored. The remaining four were not passed fit for resale and their owner, a big cattle breeder in the area, was required to sign them over to the Donkey Sanctuary.

By the end of an arduous day it was unlikely that all would survive, and although taken into care that night and given the best of treatment, the two with pneumonia died shortly afterwards. This kind of treatment of small, defenceless animals, is nothing short of criminal, but with the donkey market flooded with “useless” young stock we do, unfortunately, expect to see an increase of abuse in this sector.

It gives the marts a bad name when it is the individual who is at fault so once again we call on people to be responsible in their breeding programmes. There is nothing more enchanting than a baby donkey of either sex but please, please, take on board that you only breed one baby every 11-14 months and there is 50% chance it will be a male. Do you have a suitable home waiting? Are you prepared to keep the colt foals yourself? Are you prepared to pay the castration fee yourself? What do you do if you are stuck with an unwanted colt foal?

Naturally, both ourselves and The Donkey Sanctuary will do our best to take in unwanted donkeys, and find them permanent loving foster homes. We would much prefer to be contacted on this issue than to find damaged or starving youngsters in abuse situations, but the sheer volume of young stock could prove overwhelming and result in, at least, a waiting list. The unthinkable alternative is that the live-trade to Italy for slaughter is reintroduced as donkey meat is commonly used in pate, salami and sausage meat.


Welfare case
A road trotting victim

Another escalating trouble spot concerns road trotting. Trotting events are held regularly throughout the country and whilst some are better managed than others the idea of a gentle afternoon jaunt amongst friends long since turned into fiercely competitive trotting races in which ponies are often pushed to the point of collapse.

We fully back the ISPCA campaign to ban road trotting under these conditions and to gain legislation for a minimum working age of3 years and a minimum shoeing age except for medical and remedial purposes.

It is not unusual to find ponies of only six or seven months of age shod and trained for gig-trotting. This is, of course, excessively young as these animals do not complete their growth until at least five years of age and the constant hammering at high speed on metalled road surfaces destroys their bones and hooves before they even reach semi-maturity.

Often their “training” includes long spells of having their necks tied down to their chests in order to “make a mouth”, a barbaric practice that causes excruciating pain followed by days of muscle inflammation and possible damage to the spine. Please be diligent and report any such cases immediately to your local Gardai or animal welfare society. All calls are kept in strictest confidence.


Welfare case


This beautiful stallion is one of many found this winter in unacceptably dirty conditions. With 36 equines in our care we understand as well as anyone the difficulties and work involved in keeping them, especially large horses, through a wet, stormy Irish winter, but leaving an animal up to its shins in liquid mud with nowhere dry to lie down is totally unacceptable.

The owner of this horse was cooperative and cleaned out the pen with a digger. He also provided a dry bed inside the remaining intact part of the shed, and supplied fresh hay and water.



stolen donkey



The theft of a local coloured gelding from Ballaghboylodge Farm near Boyle, Co. Roscommon, in early February, caused untold upset within that family, especially to the youngest daughter who cannot understand why anyone would steal her beloved pet.

Willy is one of two donkey geldings fostered to the Litton family from The Donkey Sanctuary. It is unusual for a gelding to be stolen as the selling price for them is low, so one can assume the theft was one of ignorance, spite, or to order.

Willy’s most recognisable marking is that his left ear is brown and his right ear white. Anyone with information that may be useful to his recovery is asked to contact Karen Litton on ......... the Boyle Gardai, or ourselves, immediately.




The above heartbreak highlights the need for an identification process that may deter thieves. Microchips, registration and passporting is a legal requirement for any equine being moved or sold, but depends in many cases on visual identification prior to scanning as it is far from a foregone conclusion that marts, sales, dealers or abattoirs will automatically scan for ownership and legitimacy. Freeze marking is a sensible alternative or addition as this creates a visible and permanent white mark, which, if kept clipped out, cannot easily be dyed or removed. The process itself is painless and should not be confused in any way with branding. As with micro chipping the owner has the option to renew registration annually on an international database from which personal marks can always be traced back to the owner. Though some people are resistant to the process as they consider it disfiguring we are certain the alternative trauma of theft is the more distasteful option.


school visitschool visit


One of our most delightful school visits took place just before Christmas to the first and second classes of Kiltyclogher School in Co. Leitrim. The visit was organised by Carola and Bernd Gotta who’s son, Nicky, attends the school.

The children were invited to meet two donkeys brought to the school by friends John Pat and Sabine and subsequently bombarded us with intelligent and perceptive questions.

A Christmas story about the donkey who helped Santa Claus was read to the younger children and the whole event was thoroughly enjoyed by all.


Our list of thank you’s is as long as ever and cannot possibly include everyone of you wonderful people who have supported and encouraged our work through another demanding winter. You know who you are: please also know we cannot manage without you. Special thanks go to Kean O’Hara for a pallet load of Gain Cool and Easy pony crunch; Inge and Elke for 100 bales of hay, boxes of carrots and apples and for selling Christmas cards; Tom and Mary Latchford for around 60 bales of hay and delicious home made goodies; Diane Keevans for organising an essay and drawing competition at Ballymote National School which raised a staggering €249 (thanks also to the headmistress Miss Taheny and all teachers involved) ; more thanks to Diane for selling Christmas and Greetings cards (and all the many others who also sold for us)., Eileen Griffiths for an exceptionally generous donation, Cooneal National School for fundraising €100 and finally, Dave for sponsoring a pallet load of Allbed equine bedding which we have used with great success.

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