The Donkey Sanctuary has grown from a charity rescuing UK donkeys from neglect and abuse to an international animal welfare organisation transforming the lives of millions of donkeys and mules, and the people who depend on them for their livelihood.

Today, we have 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe, giving lifelong care to over 7,000 donkeys and mules, and we reach approximately 1.8 million donkeys and mules through our work in 35 countries worldwide.

Our aim is always to help many more of the estimated 50 million donkeys and mules worldwide through field projects, research and advocacy work promoting lasting collaborations with communities, governments, the media and other NGOs.

Here are some of the many ways we make an impact as we work for a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering, and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.

The sanctuaries?

Our ‘gold standard care’ is a beacon that serves to educate people everywhere about animal welfare, based on the experiences and ongoing discoveries of our vets, farriers, nutritionists, grooms, academic researchers and global programmes teams.

Rescue and rehoming

Our rescue operations have saved thousands of donkeys suffering from neglect, abuse and abandonment. Our dedicated teams of grooms, welfare advisers and veterinary staff are committed to helping donkeys in need across Europe. But providing sanctuary in one of our centres is a last resort as we know that donkeys thrive best in caring and loving homes. In comparison to the same period in 2016, and by providing more support to owners during 2017 we have achieved the following:

  • 56% reduction in the number of donkeys relinquished into sanctuary care (236 donkeys up to July 2017)
  • 35% increase in the number of donkeys rehomed (228 donkeys through our sanctuaries up to July 2017, and 135 rehomed directly from previous owners)
  • 4% more welfare visits undertaken to provide support to owners (799 visits up to July 2017).

Veterinary care

Our hospital treats sick donkeys both inside and outside our care, and trains vets both nationwide and worldwide.

  • 7,123 clinical exams so far in 2017
  • 12 UK veterinary university student placements and 6 qualified vets received training at The Donkey Sanctuary hospital so far in 2017
  • 2 international vet schools had placements at The Donkey Sanctuary hospital in 2016.

Global programmes

From the brick kilns of Asia to the rural communities of Africa and South America, our work across five continents has a lasting impact on the welfare of donkeys and mules, and the people whose lives they touch. Our outreach embraces animal welfare education from training vets to community programmes with donkey owners and farriers. Our awareness raising and advocacy puts donkey welfare on the agenda through lobbying governments and media relations. From donkeys slaughtered for their skin to the problems of feral donkeys or those in disaster areas, our rapid response to crisis situations positions us firmly at the forefront of emerging themes. Here are some of the ways we made an impact in 2016:

  • 153,652 donkeys reached by direct care or training of owner?
  • 54,112 welfare assessments carried out on donkeys in 204 communities
  • 36,000 places filled on 1,744 education programmes.


The Donkey Sanctuary’s dedicated research team is constantly improving our levels of expertise as a centre of excellence in the field of donkey care and welfare. Whether for medication, feed or habitat, we are unique in our investment as, unlike horses, the traditional beasts of burden do not form a lucrative market for equine research, nor do they lay claim to any big sporting events that generate sponsorship. Our researchers' scientific findings have resulted in several breakthroughs:

  • 80% decrease in donkeys in our care suffering from gastric ulcers through research and consequently improved care
  • 70% decrease in donkeys in our care having to be euthanised due to impaction colic
  • Donkey-specific feed products that improve health and are now sold across Europe
  • Launched in 2016 and resulting from our research, Equine NitNat is a product to help reduce the discomfort and irritation caused by louse infestations.
  • Species specific biochemical and haematological blood reference parameters have been published (in 2016) for mature, non-working donkeys in temperate climates allowing better clinical decisions to be made by in-house and external veterinary clinicians
  • Input into 97 journal articles in the last 10 years, along with 81 papers presented at conferences around the world
  • 25+ organisations worldwide currently working to help improve donkey and mule welfare.

Schools Education Programme

Through onsite educational visits, outreach work and the provision of free curriculum-linked educational resources we aim to raise the status of donkeys in the eyes and hearts of school children throughout the UK. By providing child-relevant and up-to-date information and learning experiences, we are transforming the perceptions and attitudes of school children with regards to the welfare and care needs of donkeys, along with highlighting the importance and positive impact of donkeys in the lives of the people who depend on them globally.

Over the last four years our Schools Education Programme has delivered:

  • 140 educational visits to Slade House Farm for over 3,500 students
  • 140 outreach visits, with 122 of which involved donkeys into schools, providing sessions for over 13,500 students
  • Free educational resources that have gained over 40,000 downloads.

Donkey-Assisted Therapy?

Considered by educational and counselling professionals as a cutting edge human development modality, our Donkey-Assisted Therapy programme benefits the wider communities around our sanctuaries in Sidmouth, Ivybridge, Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Italy, Romania, Greece and Belgium, helping vulnerable children and adults learn from their physical and emotional experience of donkeys. Across our UK centres the teams work with and provide technical support to:

  • 100 different school groups
  • 50 other groups that work with vulnerable adults and children
  • 7 international donkey-facilitated learning programmes.

Working donkeys

With the vast majority of the global donkey population remaining beasts of burden, we give support to those animals most in need around the world, whether urban or rural, whether used in industry, agriculture or tourism. Our collaborations with the men, women and children who depend on them has a lasting impact across veterinary care, nutrition, housing, working hours, weight of load, and welfare friendly hardness and cart design.

Advocacy and raising awareness

Advocacy work with governments, the media and other NGOs worldwide complements our practical rescue and emergency work by establishing more sustainable improvements to the lives of donkeys. Advocacy is also a key tool for addressing the root causes of animal suffering as it does not merely deal with the symptoms of animal abuse, but ensures that the underlying educational, institutional and structural causes of suffering are addressed. Advocacy is vital to make sure that authorities take responsibility for animal issues, including policy, legislation and enforcement, education and awareness, research and training. Our advocacy team is working with the following global organisations:

  • The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank
  • 9 veterinary organisations globally
  • 4 research institutes.

We are reaching donkeys all over the world

We can only do this with your support