You are here


Similarly, to Santorini and Rhodes, donkeys are used to provide rides to tourists in the small town of Mijas in Spain. For many years, The Donkey Sanctuary worked hard to try to improve welfare conditions, using several different approaches. In more recent times, our sister charity El Refugio del Burrito, has made progress with many of the owners and, importantly, the local Town Hall.

While there continues to be concerns and required improvements, El Refugio have made progress. A signed agreement is in place giving guidelines that the donkey owners must adhere too as well as giving El Refugio access to check the overnight donkey accommodation with their vet. The owners are also under strict instruction not to work any donkey that is lame, has wounds or is unfit to work. The shelter area has improved and owners are instructed to take the donkeys to the water trough regularly throughout the day.

El Refugio are now pushing for improvements to the overnight accommodation and have provided the Town Hall with drawings of suitable buildings of the correct size. There has been a gradual increase in the number of owners who now seek veterinary care for their donkeys, with a noticeable decrease in the number of hoof problems and wounds.

One area that is proving to be incredibly difficult to deal with is persuading the owners to castrate the donkeys. Almost of all of them are stallions and, due to their tendency to be aggressive toward each other, the donkeys need to be tied up very close to the wall on a short rope to prevent them attacking each other. If castrated, the donkeys’ temperament would be calmer and they could then be giving more space.

El Refugio have previously provided donkey care training to many of the owners and, as there has recently been a change of political party in the town, training will also be given to the relevant officials.

Mijas donkey


You all know about Moses and the truck, Hercules opening bolts, Helena and her fascination with bootlaces and Velcro – things you almost expect from younger donkeys. There’s an old saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and while this isn’t true, we certainly didn’t expect it of two of our very elderly donkeys!! Actually, we didn’t teach them – it was a team effort between Squeak and Bobby.

Both donkeys had been feeling rather poorly and for several weeks, their appetite wasn’t what it should be. To encourage them to eat, we let Squeak and Bobby out every morning for a few hours, to eat their food in peace. It also gave them a chance to have a nibble of the bits of rough grass and herbs around the feed barn and the portacabin where the carers have their tea break and a bin of pony nuts are kept. For a while, they were quite happy strolling around, but it didn’t take long for Bobby to realise that the portacabin had a feed bin in it as well as the occasional human and, most importantly, biscuits!

The carers quickly learnt that Bobby and Squeak could get the portacabin door open and walk in, so they put a padlock through the catch on the outside of the door. Admittedly, they didn’t do it up but this kept both donkeys out of the building – for a while! One morning the carers returned to find the portacabin looked like it had been burgled! The feed bin was open, pony nuts were all over the floor, cups and cutlery had been knocked off the worktop and chairs had been tipped over. The biscuits box, which was now on the floor, was completely empty. There hadn’t been a burglary – there’d been a Bobby and Squeak break in! Of course, Bobby and Squeak were nowhere to be seen until they were found happily eating some grass down the other end of the Holding Base!

Obviously, the portacabin is now locked properly, but when its tea break time, Bobby and Squeak know the humans are back. To try to persuade them to keep out, a large wheelie bin was put in the doorway but they soon realised it could easily be knocked over with their noses. Tying up the door with a rope on the inside didn’t work either, as Bobby would just keep playing with the edge of the door until the rope came loose.

It would be simpler, of course, to put the two old boys back in their field, but they look forward to their visits each morning and it is entertaining to be with them. Having worked hard all their lives before coming to us, at their ages, we think they deserve a bit of fun and it’s lovely to see them happy and enjoying themselves. It just shows that you’re never too old to learn new things, even if it causes mischief. We just have to keep a close eye on them and remember to use the padlock!

Bobby & Squeak 1


In our last newsletter, we spoke about the help we need from any of you who are concerned about a donkey you see. We’re sure you’ll understand how difficult it can be for us to resolve some situations, particularly as we have no legal jurisdiction. Fortunately, we’ve got to know many more owners over the years and developed a good relationship with most. This makes it a lot easier if we need to speak to them about a concern, or if we can then tell people that we know the donkeys involved and can explain the situation.

Frequently, by providing explanations about the general welfare of a donkey to concerned members of the public, helps people learn and understand more about donkey health.

Sometimes there may not be an issue with a donkey, but we’re always grateful for everyone who contacts us, regardless of whether there is definitely a problem or not. Sadly, we can’t always deal with every case but will always do our best whenever we can.

A huge help from you to us is to send photographs (and/or videos) and an exact location of where the donkey is. Although it can be upsetting to see any animal in an awful state, evidence can be crucial and so if you do come across a donkey you think may be in trouble, please help us by sending in the information we need.

Next year we’re hoping to be able to give some talks to other animal welfare organisations about donkey welfare. Not only can basic knowledge about a species enable people to have a better understanding, but it can also help us to have more ‘eyes and ears’ out there. We’re also working on information to put on our website and Facebook explaining how to make an official complaint to the authorities as this can emphasise the need for improvements to animal welfare.

It can be a long, slow process to getting improvements but with your help, it can make a difference. Thank you to those of you who have contacted us over the years and told friends and relatives who we are. By doing so, you’ve helped us help so many donkeys.

Help us make donkey lives better


Trying to improve donkey welfare standards can sometimes seem like a losing battle; it’s easy to forget that there are good people out there who really do take care of their donkeys. Through our Community Programme, we meet some wonderful owners who ask us questions and listen to our advice so that they can give their donkeys a better life. Two such people are Andreas and Panagiota.

Vasilis is a young man who enjoys working in the countryside and a few years ago got a donkey. On our first visit, the young mare was difficult to handle and we spent time showing Vasilis what he could do to get her used to being caught, touched and have her hooves picked up. We also explained the best foods to feed, the importance of providing shelter whenever possible and to give the donkey plenty of water. He’s naturally a quiet, calm person, which helped his donkey learn to trust him.

The mare is now a confident donkey who is a pleasure to handle and this year became an excellent mother. This photo shows Vasilis with the foal who is such a friendly little chap who loved being cuddled when we visited earlier this year. He’s already good to lead and pick his hooves up! Vasilis has really listened to our advice and done a fabulous job with both donkeys.

Another super owner is Panagiota who uses her donkey for work on her land each day. She relinquished her previous donkey to us as he had a problem with one of his hooves and was unable to work. Fortunately, we knew of someone selling a donkey that we thought would be ideal for Panagiota and Shibilli (not ours!) has been working for her for several years.

We knew Shibilli well from our Community Programme visits and thought he would be ideal for Panagiota. After giving her a full description, and assuring the person who was selling him that he would be going to an excellent home, we put the two ladies in touch. They agreed on a price and Shibilli moved to his new home.

He’s a lovely natured donkey, with a huge character, whose only ‘fault’ is that he can wriggle out of any head collar! We’d warned Panagiota about this and the previous owner had confirmed it but this didn’t put Panagiota off at all. Shibilli was exactly the right size and temperament, in very good condition and already trained to work. The perfect match!

For safety, she puts him in a stable at night so he doesn’t escape and go off wandering, although on the few occasions he has managed to break free, he never goes very far!. Panagiota has a great bond with Shibilli and when we arrive, he’s always immaculately groomed, in an easy area for us to work and is so well behaved. If she has any concerns, she always asks our advice and does what we suggest or recommend. What a lucky donkey?!



Hambos and Nakis are two unwanted, and slightly troublesome, donkeys that came to us earlier in the year.Their owner was having problems with both the stallions escaping near a very busy main road and obviously concerned both the safety of the donkeys and vehicle drivers.

Donkeys can be great escape artists at the best of times, but when stallions detect a mare in season, even several kilometres away, they can be very determined to get to her. This may have been one of the reasons the boys were continually escaping. As they’d got in the habit of getting out, there was a serious concern that, even if they were castrated, the habit would be very difficult to break..

The owner asked if we could take them and although both a little underweight when they arrived at the New Arrivals unit, they settled in well. Once they had received a full medical and had been cleared by our vet, the next thing to do was to castrate them. On the occasions we have to do this, we always avoid operating during the summer months due to the heat and number of flies and other insects that are around. As flies can easily cause new wounds to become infected, it’s not worth the risk but fortunately, the donkeys arrived at the right time as it was a suitable temperature and no flies were around.

Hambos’ operation went very smoothly but our vet discovered a problem with Nakis – the vet could only find one complete testicle! It doesn’t happen very often in equines when the second testicle either hasn’t descended or is not fully formed, but can cause problems with their behaviour. They can still behave like stallions and sometimes be quite aggressive with mares and other castrated males. Often referred to as a ‘rig’ a specific blood test was required to confirm if Nakis was still producing any testosterone and, sure enough, he was.

The dear boy then later had to have another operation to find the offending tissue, which although difficult locate, was eventually found by our vet. Nakis made a full successful recovery and after a while was able to go with Hambos to live with new friends.

Hambos is a lovely smoky grey colour and is a very confident donkey, whereas Nakis, who is brown, is a little more cautious and wary of things. Both donkeys have become very friendly and good to handle and, with our very high secure fencing, haven’t found a way to escape (yet?)!

Hambos and Nakis


Our office responds to hundreds of concerns and enquiries from all over Europe, and this number tends to increase during the tourists season. Long hooves, lack of water, food or shelter, and injuries are the most frequent concerns and we always appreciate people taking the time to contact us. Obviously, long hooves need dealing with and often we can arrange for this to be done. Providing shelter and 24-hour water can often be very difficult areas to deal with.

In many Mediterranean countries, its common practice for owners to take water to their donkey very early in the morning and late at night. There are several reasons for this; buckets can be knocked over easily, filled with dust and insects and we've seen donkeys refuse to drink warm water.

Shelters can be difficult to erect on very rocky ground, and many donkeys are moved around from place to place for grazing. However, we do try to persuade owners to tether the donkey near to bushes or trees for some relief from the sun.

If you do see a donkey you are concerned about, we will always do our best to resolve the situation wherever possible, although we do need your help too.
Apart from knowing the exact location of the donkey, photographs/videos are so useful. Not only can they help us make an initial evaluation of the situation, but also provide vital evidence if we need to contact other organisations we frequently work with.

We do of course understand that it can sometimes be distressing to take photos or videos of difficult situations, or even inappropriate.

The more information we receive, the better and you can contact us with the information either by email or through our Donkeys in Distress Checklist.

If it's a real emergency for donkeys in Cyprus, please call us on +357 99892713.

A big thank you to all of you who have helped us help donkeys in need.

Donkeys in distress


You may have read in previous newsletters that The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus receive enquires, advice requests and welfare concerns from all over Europe, as well as those in Cyprus. Whenever possible, we collaborate with other organisations in other countries to try to get help to donkeys in need.

Recently we were able to assist a donkey on Naxos Island, Greece. Bouboulina, an elderly donkey, had been rescued by Naxos Animal Welfare Society as she had extremely badly neglected hooves and was in very poor condition.

One of NAWS members, who we know, has good equine experience and took Bouboulina to her home to begin the long road to recover. Having no farrier on the island, a very experienced one came over from Crete to deal with the hooves. Medical advice and support was provided by ourselves and the Greek Animal Welfare Fund, whom we work closely with.

Bouboulina improved dramatically although due to her age, she did require daily medications to treat her arthritis. Over time, the situation changed for the lady caring for the donkey, as well as Bouboulina requiring regular hoof trims. The question was, how do we help?

As you can see in the photograph, Bouboulina's hooves and body condition were now in a very good shape and she was fit to travel. After a lot of phone calls and emails, health and travel documents were arranged, and transport was organised to take her to a small Holding Base on mainland Greece. She travelled really well and is now settled in her new home. This was truly a team effort by everyone involved and the result is one very contented donkey!.

Team work-Greece


By the time you read this, we'll be taking a well-earned break from the first half of our Community Programme. As usual, the temperatures in July and August make it incredibly hard work for two of the team - our vet and particularly our farrier. Rasping teeth and spending most of the day bent over trimming very hard donkey hooves is not easy.

We've completed both the Nicosia and Paphos districts with Larnaca, Famagusta and Limassol to do later in the year. Having treated 274 donkeys last year, there's every possibility we will be doing more this time, especially as more owners contact us each year.

It's not all about just trimming hooves and checking teeth though; giving advice about feeding, health care, donkeys' environment and even passport information are some of the parts of the work we do, and this is why the Outreach has been renamed to Community Programme.

It's been an encouraging start too as this year we've seen several big improvements to the welfare of donkeys that we've visited before. More owners are using head collars or safer tethers, feeding their donkeys correctly and providing shelter. It might not sound a lot, but even tidying the area the donkey lives in and removing string, metal and plastic rubbish is progress. As we say over here - sega, sega - slowly slowly!

A huge thank you goes to those of you who have already provided us with items for our donkey first aid box and head collars. It's such a big help and very much appreciated.

If you wish to support our Community Programme, please visit our Adopt, Donate and Gift Shop sections on our website.

Community Programme


Our 2018 calendar printed and for sale on our online store! They were so popular last year that we've prepared them earlier so you can beat the rush! With larger pictures, the calendar has a mixture of some of the donkeys we help through our Community Programme, and others of our own beloved donkeys. There is also more room for you to write those important reminders.

Each A4 calendar costs just €8.50 plus postage available through our online gift shop on our website. Alternatively, you can phone us, send us an email at or, if you are in the area, purchase one from our office in Pano Kivides.

The proceeds from buying just one calendar can feed a donkey for two days with straw, or provide three days of medication for our elderly donkeys. Not only do you receive a lovely, practical gift but you're helping donkeys have a better life.

The number of calendars available will be limited so don't miss out!

2018 Calendar


Meet Sam, a stunningly beautiful 8 year old gelding, who came to us as a stallion with some behavioural issues and a reputation for escaping. A few years ago, a very kind man rescued him from a life of awful abuse. It took more than two years for him to gain some of Sam's confidence but, being a young stallion, the owner knew Sam needed more help to improve.

Also, the little donkey became an expert at rolling under the electric fencing and, living close to a main road, there was a real danger of him being involved in an accident.

The owner was very concerned about Sam's future and asked if we could take him, which we did in May. He's since been castrated and has begun to settle into the new environment. As with Yiannis, the young donkey we rescued last year, it will take time and patience to build his confidence further, but he's a very sweet natured donkey and we know he will get there.



Subscribe to The Donkey Sanctuary RSS