Our visit to Island Farm donkey sanctuary

​I’ve always like donkeys. I think they’re cool and I’ve supported various donkey charities over the years, but the only time I tried to visit one, it was out of season and the sanctuary was closed to the public. One donkey came up to the fence to bray at us, but it wasn’t the same as going inside!

So one of the things I put on our list of things to do on our week off was visit a donkey sanctuary. I discovered the Island farm Donkey Sanctuary near Wallingford in Oxfordshire and we drove there on a sunny day, earlier this week.

There is no entrance fee, but donations are appreciated and you can also support the sanctuary in other ways such as by adopting a donkey, or buying gifts from the shop. The sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas day from 11 till 4, and they sometimes hold special events. There is one planned for the 2nd Bank Holiday weekend in May (2019) so check out the site if you’d like to go!

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the donkeys, though children should be supervised to ensure they don’t scare the donkeys and any treats should be given in at reception. It’s hard to make sure that all donkeys have a balanced diet if people give them too many treats, and some of the donkeys are on special diets, which means certain foods would be harmful to them.

When we arrived, we saw a lot of donkeys out in their fields. The donkeys are in various fields with groups ranging in size. Donkeys like company!

Speaking of company – going on a weekday during term-time was great, because when we were walking around, there was hardly anyone else there apart from a couple of visitors and people who worked there. I like donkeys more than people!

There was also some information around on the walls to teach visitors about donkeys, what they like to eat, differences between horses and donkeys, and further information about individual donkeys who live at the sanctuary.

After popping into reception, we were encouraged to walk around the grounds and see the donkeys. Many of them were behind electric wire fences. I did reach across to pat one who came right up to us, but I don’t suggest that anyone else does that! Also we later found that some of the donkeys were wandering around on the path area, so I could get up close and talk to a couple of them who were grazing or standing around in the sunshine. As someone who can’t see the animals, I’m always especially happy if I can get to meet some!

They didn’t solicit attention like your average golden retriever! Well maybe they would if they know you, or if they know you’ve come to feed them! But they stood still while I stroked and talked to them, with one of them twitching his ear in my direction. I think they like to know what’s going on!

Jack was definitely up for a stroke, and stood patiently while we had a chat.

Pollyanna must have been tired, because she was chilling out on the floor, happy for me to stroke her lovely silky coat!

Many of the donkeys come to the sanctuary with problems associated with neglect, such as skin problems, parasites, and worst of all, overgrown hooves. These are very painful and if not treated, can lead to problems with walking. This of course means extra vet bills to get the problems sorted out.

The donkeys seemed content, chomping at the grass, or trying to get their friends to play!

As well as around 120 donkeys, and over 50 more living with foster families, there are other animals at the sanctuary such as a couple of Shetland ponies, some chickens, goats, and a pig!

The donkeys have plenty of space to graze and enjoy the sunshine, and as they don’t like getting wet, there are also shelters for when it rains. Some of the ones whom I stroked had been enjoying a roll around, which keeps the pesky flies at bay, and also helps to remove any loose hair.

Some of the donkeys are active in the local community, attending fairs, starring in nativity plays, or taking part in country shows. This raises the profile of the work of the sanctuary and introduces new people to the donkeys. The donkeys have also starred in some TV shows – from animal rescue programmes to children’s TV.

I wanted to support one of the donkeys and decided to adopt Loppy, a 32-year-old mare who has what are believed to be the longest ears (around 45 cm) of any female donkey in the country. She came down from Scotland in 1996 and was bought at a livestock market and offered to the donkey sanctuary where she would have a good home. Loppy is an Andalusian donkey, which is in danger of becoming extinct. Loppy is one of the larger donkeys at 14.2 hands, but she is very gentle and friendly. You can read more about Loppy here.

You could sponsor a donkey at reception, but I chose to just do it myself online because I wanted to take my time and read through the individual stories.

I could complete the adoption process using my screenreader. The only slightly tricky thing was the payment types, because they were neither radio buttons nor check boxes, so a blind user can’t be sure which payment method had been selected because there was no feedback apart from the fact that it was highlighted visually. But I chose the one I wanted and hoped for the best – and it worked!

I would recommend this as a place to visit for anyone who loves animals or who wants to learn a bit more about donkeys.

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It’s Donkey Week – what can you do to help a donkey?

Today I’d like to talk about donkeys! 8th May 2018 is the beginning of Donkey Week, which is a series of events run in the UK by the Donkey Sanctuary.

The closest I got to meeting donkeys was on the Isle of Wight. I went there with some friends, but it was around Christmas time, and the sanctuary was closed to the public. As we stood by the fence outside, some of the donkeys came up to the other side and started braying. I wasn’t close enough to give them a pat, but it was as if they still wanted to say hello to us!

I’ve been following the Donkey Sanctuary on Facebook for a while and received their emails. The sanctuary is involved in helping donkeys all over the world, so as well as looking after abandoned or neglected donkeys here, they also work on shaping legislation in other countries. If you aren’t able to help financially, there are still ways in which you can help such as public awareness, sharing informatoin on social media, or signing petitions if you agree with them to show that the petition is supported by members of the public.

According to the site’s website, there are over 50 million donkeys around the world. In other parts of the world, some are treated as part of the family,helping to bring water and firewood, but in other areas, their life isn’t as good and they are not treated well. The sanctuary works to change laws to stop cruel or bad practices, address cases in which they are being neglected, and improve the life of the donkey worldwide. This includes monitoring what’s happening to donkeys around the world, particularly when they are working in dangerous places such as brick kilns and building sites.
Donkey week gives people the chance to meet the Donkey Sanctuary donkeys, go on wildlife walks, attend talks, hang out witt, or groom the donkeys. Accommodation is provided by a range of hotels and guest houses that are part of the Donkey Week scheme, and 10% of your accommodation costs go back to the sanctuary and therefore to looking after the donkeys.

I’m not actually able to go to any of the events this time, but I did adopt Coco the retired donkey! There is also Bonnie, the inquisitiv donkey who likes to try and get a second turn at being groomed, Cisco the organiser donkey, who makes sure all his stable mates are doing what they should, Henry the visually impaired donkey, who is getting used to getting around relying on his ears, and Ripple, who puts his head on your shoulder to show affection. There arre also many others, so do check them out if you want to meet the rest of the donkey family!

If you go to the adopt a donkey part of the website, you will find pictures of all of the donkeys and some information about each donkey.

Sponsoring a donkey costs £36, or £3 a month. You can receive a welcome pack with pictures and postcards, or you can choose not to receive the pack so that there is no cost for it and the total amount goes to the donkeys. I wouldn’t be able to see the pictures, so I ticked the box to say that I didn’t need a pack.Coco is at the sanctuary in Devon, so if we ever make it down there, I might be able to meet him!

Have you ever been to a donkey sanctuary? Will you be doing anything for Donkey Week this year? Let me know in the comments!

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