Three go to Dorset: Change of fortune for a trio of neglected donkeys

Laura, Snowy and Big Ears were left in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, requiring the attention of a vet and a farrier. © The donkey sanctuary

A trio of neglected donkeys, who were found suffering from severely overgrown hooves and living in a field with poisonous plants, are now thriving in the care of international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.

After responding for help from the RSPCA in May 2020, donkey welfare adviser Katana Ashby attended the address in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and found the group had desperately need veterinary care.

Without shelter or access to water, the donkeys, named Laura, Big Ears and Snowy were confined to an open field containing groundsel, a poisonous plant which can be fatal to equids and other farm animals if eaten .

The owner of the donkeys was overwhelmed by the number of animals he was caring for, which meant that Laura, Big Ears and Snowy’s basic needs were not being met.

Nine-year-old mare Laura’s hooves were in very poor condition. They had been left to grow for a very long time and they were curling up to show the sole of the hoof and twisting inwards, with abnormal growths at the top of the hoof.

Ashby said when Laura walked it was hard to watch. “She was taking small, hesitant steps as if she were walking on glass.

“When I saw her lying around for quite a long time without her friends, it worried me because she seemed to be closely related to the other donkeys.”

Laura's feet were in the worst condition of the three.  His toes curled up to show the sole of the hoof and twisted inward, with abnormal growths at the top of the hoof.
Laura’s feet were in the worst condition of the three. His toes curled up to show the sole of the hoof and twisted inward, with abnormal growths at the top of the hoof. © The donkey sanctuary

Big Ears and Snowy were also in poor condition. Big Ears’ brown coat was patchy, caused by the constant rubbing of lice in the nine-year-old’s coat, while 12-year-old Snowy, the more reserved of the three, had long overgrown feet.

After 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. Due to the different needs of all species and the time and resources required by each, a decision had to be made regarding the future care of the donkeys.

The owner agreed to leave the donkeys in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, and the three were taken to a nearby local detention base, where they received care and veterinary attention.

Laura, Snowy and Big Ears’ journey then took them to Axnoller Farm at The Donkey Sanctuary in South West Dorset. They spent several weeks in the farm’s newcomer unit where the bride and groom could spend time building their confidence. The farm is 35 miles from The Donkey International headquarters in Sidmouth and is home to over 100 donkeys.

Since their arrival at Axnoller, the transformation of Laura, Milou and Grandes Oreilles has been very rewarding for all the members of the team who have worked 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 gain confidence. Although still a little quiet at times, she has blossomed in her new environment and is a very curious donkey.

The future looks much brighter for Laura, Snowy and Big Ears, who have thrived under the care of the team at Axnoller Farm in Dorset.
The future looks much brighter for Laura, Snowy and Big Ears, who have thrived under the care of the team at Axnoller Farm in Dorset. © The donkey sanctuary

Snowy was the more cautious of the trio but has struck up a close friendship with Laura and enjoys the company of her newlyweds.

Like Snowy, Big Ears also lacked confidence when he arrived. When the bride and groom walked past her unit, she was very aware of this, but with patience and a lot of attention, she grew into a friendly and confident character.

The Axnoller Farm team are working hard to continue to build the trust of the three donkeys. Axnoller Farm bride Laura Attwood said it was heartwarming to see how their characters blossomed and their confidence grew.

“We believe that over time we can work to build 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 this route, they will have a safe and happy home for life at Donkey Sanctuary,” Attwood said.

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