Above: The ‘adoption’ donkeys wait patiently at the fence to say hello to their supporters and bask in the attention they receive.
With more than 40 million donkeys in the world, it’s little wonder that this hard-working much-loved animal features in so many classic children’s tales ranging from the Christmas nativity story to an Aesop’s fable to Winnie the Pooh. The popular Christmas carol ‘Little Donkey’ is an all-time favourite.
Sadly these gentle animals with pointed ears and comical braying voices are often neglected, abandoned or mistreated throughout Ireland. Mary O’Brien visits The Donkey Sanctuary in Mallow.
“We are currently caring for 1,803 donkeys, which unfortunately is on the increase every year,” explains Triona O’Mahony. “Last year was our busiest to date, as we rescued over 500 donkeys in the year; most from terrible conditions where the donkeys were left in a field, bog or forestry with long, overgrown hooves. Many of the donkeys that we rescue these days are in large groups because of indiscriminate breeding and mares producing a foal each year; all too often they are in-bred with complicated health issues but thankfully the Sanctuary is available for them and our trained staff and volunteers are on hand 24/7 to provide expert care.”
Set in the beautiful rolling countryside of County Cork, just outside the village of Liscarroll, a typical day at The Donkey Sanctuary begins with the staff checking all donkeys and giving them their breakfast. Then the mucking out begins for the farm staff and the vet rounds for the veterinary team to ensure all donkeys are feeling fit and healthy.
The staff members at the visitor centre meet and greet over 50,000 visitors every year from all over the world. The ‘adoption’ donkeys wait patiently at the fence to say hello to their supporters and bask in the attention they receive. They can be adopted or sponsored for just €20 per year – this helps The Sanctuary to maintain a high level of care and welfare towards all of its animals.
“Our Sanctuary is often full with gleeful little foals that are born here when we rescue pregnant mares,” says Triona. “We offer the foal the same sanctuary as the mare and once they are in the gate here they are guaranteed a long and happy life with us.”
The Sanctuary also has a rehoming scheme; 450 donkeys have already been rehomed throughout the country to loving homes – private homes, nursing homes, creches, schools, therapy centres and so on. The benefits to both donkeys and guardians are endless, as donkeys make wonderful pets.
“Our supporters and volunteers are absolutely incredible and have kept the organisation going for all of this time and we are forever grateful to them for their loyalty and support,” says Triona.
Paddy Barrett opened The Donkey Sanctuary in 1987. Paddy’s father Garrett was a welfare officer in the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) from 1964 to 1981 and worked tirelessly to help donkeys and animals throughout Ireland. Paddy himself worked as an inspector for the ISPCA for a number of years, whilst at the same time running a rescue centre for donkeys in Ireland.
The Donkey Sanctuary will hold a Christmas Craft and Food Fair on Sunday, November 27 from 12pm. It promises a unique experience, whereby visitors will get the opportunity to browse at over 30 stalls, as well as meet the beautiful donkeys. It’s only up the road from West Cork so if you get the chance, do visit.
The Donkey Sanctuary is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-4.30pm. Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, 10am-5pm.
For more information on The Donkey Sanctuary go to thedonkeysanctuary.ie or call 022 48398.