Newsletter Spring 2015


Sue ffeding donkeys in the snowIt wasn't a bad winter!

September was glorious and the weather remained mild and largely dry well into October. We’ve had less severe storms than recent winters and there was plenty of fodder available.

Yet up here on the hill we will remember this winter for its spectacular snowfalls which occurred regularly throughout February and March, the heaviest in early March. Not heavy by the standards of some countries but substantial for the coastal counties of western Ireland.

The scenery was stunning and with the sun shining out of crisp blue skies the animals loved it too.



Our front cover photo is courtesy of Brian Farrell, local photographer, who arrived unexpectedly during the morning of our first snowfall and asked if he could take some photographs of the donkeys being fed in the field. Next morning this photograph was in the Irish Independent, the Irish Examiner, The Daily Mail and subsequently many other national and local newspapers, giving the Sanctuary wonderful media exposure which resulted in many delighted people phoning to wish us well.

Thank you Brian!


On 18th October 2014 we launched the first of a series of informal Donkey Welfare Courses in conjunction with the IDWO (Irish Donkey Welfare Organisation). This event was free to all interested parties and was surprisingly well attended by new donkey owners wishing to learn more, and by potential owners, wanting to know what they were letting themselves in for.

We had a great time, swopping information and stories so everyone learned something, including the teachers! Sai donkeys Lisa and Mr McNulty offered their services as models for lessons in grooming, weight measuring, haltering and leading, picking out the hooves and a host of other basic but important skills.

We have also enjoyed a number of school and college visits including the Mercy College and the Ursuline College, both of Sligo where students were studying animal welfare as part of their curriculum. Both colleges are to be thanked for the respect shown to the animals and for their fundraising events— Class 3 of the Ursuline College in particular, who played a charity football match and raised a healthy €80 to help the donkeys and ponies. Well done to all and thank you.



The Donkey and His Buyer

A MAN wished to buy a donkey, and agreed with its owner that he should try out the animal before he bought him. He took the donkey home and led it to the manger to mix with his other donkeys. Very quickly the new animal turned his back on the others and joined the one that was most idle and the greatest eater of them all. Seeing this, the man put a halter on him and led him back to his owner.

On being asked how he could have given it a fair trial in so short a time, he answered,

"I don't need a trial. I feel certain that he'll be like the one he chose for his companion."

❖   People often judge us by the company we keep.

The Donkey and His Shadow

A TRAVELLER hired a donkey to carry him to a distant place. The day was intensely hot, and the sun was even hotter. The traveller stopped to rest and sought shelter from the heat under the shadow of the donkey. The owner who accompanied him, found no other shelter there, and the donkey shadow gave protection only for one.

Both the traveller and the owner of the donkey claimed it, and took to arguing violently as to which of them had the right to the shadow. The owner claimed that he had let out the donkey only, and not his shadow. The traveller asserted that along with hiring the donkey, he had hired his shadow too. The quarrel went on from words to blows, and while the men fought, the donkey galloped off.

❖   In quarrelling about the shadow we often lose the substance.




Ear to the ground news teamOn 18th December last the Sanctuary was privileged to be featured on RTE’s ‘Ear to the Ground’, a popular national television farming programme. It was particularly exciting as donkeys are such an appropriate subject for Christmas so we had fun decking out the haybarn with fairy lights and a small Christmas tree, just to get ourselves in the mood.

Naturally the filming was done a couple of week’s earlier, on an unseasonably grey and foggy day, and most of us were suffering some degree of nervousness about the ‘interviews’. We need not have worried. Ellie Mac Sweeney immediately put us all at our ease and the crew which included the Editor, camera man and sound man, all worked so efficiently and unobtrusively that in a short time it was easy to forget they were there.


Equine dentist Lisa Molloy, farrier Brian Horohue and veterinary surgeon Dr Sabine Conboy all came along to demonstrate their special skills in relation to the donkeys’ health and well being so there was solid content from the professionals plus some light hearted comments from the volunteers who managed to come along for the day.

RTE news Team

Unfortunately many of the regular volunteers were at work so couldn’t contribute in person though Blaithnaid used her creative skills to send over a huge pot of homemade soup, homemade breads and scones and her own special brand of goodwill to feed and warm the hungry mob when we were all cold and stiff from standing around instead of working! She was the biggest star of the day.

The programme was featured at 7.30pm on the 18th , repeated on the following Sunday at lunchtime and was available on RTE’s Player for a week afterwards, so the Sanctuary benefited from huge exposure which translated into a positive increase in Christmas donations and messages of appreciation. So our thanks go to all involved, especially the wonderful Ellie and her colleagues.




Finn X-ray

Our last newsletter reported the story of Huckleberry and Finn, two small donkey stallions abandoned near Williamstown in Co Galway. Finn had a nasty injury to one rear leg below the fetlock joint which appeared to be healing........but then broke out again with infection. Convinced at this stage that there must still be some debris in the wound we asked our vet to Xray.

Left: the Xray clearly shows the wire

Right: the operation begins  

Finnn surgery





We expected at worst to find a small piece of wire embedded in the flesh. Shockingly the Xray revealed a double ring of high tensile wire twisted to form a ‘hobble’ which had tightened through the skin right to the bone.


New homeNew home




How the little fellow had survived for so long and in such pain was a mystery.

Our vets immediately went to work performing a skilled and delicate operation to remove the wire, after which the wound healed rapidly.




Once both lads were gelded they moved to a superb foster home nearby where they are being cherished by a veterinary nurse and her family. We can see them any time, which is great as they definitely won a special place in many people’s hearts.



This Shetland mare and her filly foal were abandoned on farmland and brought in to us through the local horse Pound. Both little animals are extremely nervous, the foal, Marigold, in particular, who is like a whirlwind! They integrated with the donkeys to the delight of Myrtle who has a full time job keeping an eye on her adventurous and disrespectful daughter. Given a little time they show great potential as family pets in a loving home.

Foal Mare












Area Aid Donkeys abandoned in a swamp


These two beautiful donkey mares suffered the fate of many donkeys used on the Department of Agriculture’s Area Aid Scheme, where they can be counted as a livestock unit with which the farmer can claim money.

Whilst not all farmers are guilty of carelessness in these circumstances, many do not realise that the donkey needs special care in Ireland as he has no waterproofing in his coat and his hooves grow rapidly and distort in shape when left out on soft ground.

Many end up like Sally and Nellie, to all intents and purposes abandoned on a swamp without food or shelter in the very worst of the winter weather.



Both the ISPCA, and ourselves, had received many calls about these donkeys but it took a joint effort, plus the help of two stalwart Gardai from local stations to rescue them from their hellish existence as the only exit from the ‘field’ was onto a narrow part of the busy N4 Sligo-Dublin road.


Ten people, many gates tied together to make a shute, and a pen around the ramp of the horse trailer, Gardai directing traffic and a great deal of pushing and shoving later eventually landed the terrified three year old donkeys into the trailer.









Only then could we bring them to safety at the Sanctuary where they have gained in confidence and learned some donkey social skills over a period of several weeks.

The elderly owner was persuaded to relinquish the donkeys to the ISPCA though we would have chosen a more robust outcome given his admission that he had not ‘looked at them for several months’. Let us hope Shame is a good teacher.



Thanks to a generous repeat payment of € 12,600 from the Minister of Agriculture, Simon Coveney, we are again able to extend financial assistance towards the costs of castrating stallion horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, a desirable requirement in a climate of over-production of equines generally - and towards the costs of micro-chipping and passporting these animals, a legal requirement for all equines. This was an extremely successful Scheme throughout 2014 which enabled many people to meet the costs of these procedures.

The Scheme works on a discount voucher system, ie. the Sai Sanctuary forwards a voucher form to whichever veterinary surgeon is performing the operation, pledging a given amount towards the overall costs incurred. On completion of a post-surgery form, signed by the vet, the Sanctuary reimburses the pledged amount directly to the vet. This gives equine owners the freedom to work with their own vet on their own premises, in their own time, whilst benefitting from a substantial discount in the overall fee. This was an extremely successful Scheme throughout 2014 which enabled many people to meet the costs of these procedures.

The Scheme works on a discount voucher system ie. the Sai Sanctuary forwards a voucher form to whichever veterinary surgeon is performing the operation, pledging a given amount towards the overall costs incurred.

On completion of a post-surgery form, signed by the vet, the Sanctuary reimburses the pledged amount directly to the vet. This gives equine owners the freedom to work with their own vet on their own premises, in their own time, whilst benefitting from a substantial discount in the overall fee.

Further details are available direct from the Sai Sanctuary.

This is a limited time only offer – don’t miss out.

Contact us immediately on or telephone 0861031932.



As always we extend an enormous thank you to the volunteer workers who help keep the daily work-wheels turning and without whom we absolutely could not manage.

At our busiest time this winter we were housing 53 donkeys, and feeding/caring for 31 horses and ponies, most of whom, with rugs and shelter, lived out for the greater part. Even so, that is a huge amount of mucking out on a twice daily basis! The work is done by hand with the manure transported from the donkey sheds to the manure storage sheds by our 30hp Shire tractor.

Neil and Jackie started helping in November, soon after they moved over from UK and have quickly become essential cogs in the Sanctuary machinery, arriving for two full days every week, without fail, to tackle whatever the day throws at them – the perfect volunteers!

Below right: Neil and Jackie cleaning the yard
Right: Rick lugging a bale
Below: Doris with her rescue collie dog Leni


Doris, from Germany, landed back for the third year running to help during February, March and into April with an apology for not being able to come sooner due to having surgery on her hip!


Despite there being a good few new faces to learn, Doris slipped back into her role as if she had never been away offering invaluable assistance at the time of the year when it is most needed.



Thank you to Rick, who for the second time booked his ‘holiday’ to help out during the worst of the snow and certainly earned his keep lugging haybales across the fields to the small ponies who winter out on the hill behind the main Sanctuary.


Thank you to you all, and to the many other volunteers who come when they can and pitch in with whatever is needed: Sandy, Declan, Jessica, Jemma, Henneke, to say nothing of the huge amount of long term help from our neighbours.




Right: Henneke feeding Sunny, a donkey with Wobblers Syndrome who had a short but positive stay with us before he died suddenly of a stroke.

Sunny was showing a remarkable improvement in co-ordination after four sessions of acupuncture so it was a shock when he left us so unexpectedly.

It was a difficult condition to manage though we are confident he enjoyed the time he had with us, He taught us much about bravery and stoicism.





We have a huge list of thank-you’s this time with room to mention only a few but appreciation for every one of you . . .

Practical help came in the form of:


DONKEYNESS by Angela Dyer

Thanks to the generosity of the author we have several copies of this beautiful book to sell with all proceeds to help the donkeys.

Stuffed full of stories from myth to modern day, anecdotes and little known information about our long eared friends this is a delightful read for all donkeys lovers and at only €12 + p&p makes an inexpensive and treasured gift. And remember – every cent goes to help the donkeys !

Order now while stocks last…




Remember we are open to visitors from 1st April until 31st October from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

Most other times can be arranged by appointment though we do ask you to respect that as a small voluntarily run organisation we do not always have someone available on site to show you around and take you to meet the animals.

Sometimes this is just due to a shortage of helpers; other times we could be called away on an emergency rescue, so please bear with us on the occasions when we cannot accommodate your wishes.

Otherwise we look forward to meeting you and hope you will feel welcome and enjoy your visit.

Dress warmly and wear waterproof boots if possible as even on a summer’s day it can be chilly and damp underfoot!

The scenery, however, is spectacular.


A date for your diary—free admssion: DONKEY DAY 22nd August 2015 at the Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

* * * * * *

This isn't the end of this newsletter . . . see below


Those of you who have read the paper copy of the Spring 2015 newsletter will know that there is a 'missing' story. . .


Our welfare calls this winter were dominated by the story of Chance, a piebald colt cob foal of around 7-8 months old, who was found on waste ground in Sligo town, apparently abandoned. The emergency call came into the ISPCA, the county vet, the Gardai and subsequently ourselves. The little pony needed urgent and immediate attention due to severe, badly infected wounds on both sides of his neck . . .


The rest of the story contains all the 'Chance' photos that Sue has sent to me. They show Chance's wounds in full colour detail and, as Sue says, "The photographs are scary but believe me the reality was worse".

Some of you may find them distressing and for that reason Chance's story continues on two separate pages.

Click here to read his story

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