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Why Do Virginia’s Donkeys Need Help?
Virginia’s donkeys are facing an increasing risk of ending up in kill pens/feed lots where they are shipped out of the country for slaughter as meat or to the donkey hide trade overseas. This risk is growing as the coyote population in the state is exploding. Farmers seeking to protect their livestock investment, place donkeys with cattle, sheep and goats as guardian animals. This, however, can lead to many unfortunate issues for the donkeys, the livestock and the owners when it’s not managed and monitored properly.
The donkeys are often neglected because they haven’t been handled, trained, or cared for appropriately. Often times, male donkeys are left intact resulting in uncontrolled breeding. Those intact donkeys can also get aggressive as they get older, and frequently start to harass the animals they are supposed to protect. All of this can result in a population of unmanageable donkeys, which can lead to neglect, abuse, abandonment, and often sales at auctions where they end up at kill pens.
Virginia Donkey Rescue’s (VDR) primary mission is to try to prevent this from happening in the first place. We do this through education and outreach by providing future and current donkeys owners and animal welfare groups with information, resources and assistance, including a low or no cost castration program. We also hope to partner with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Institutions and Clubs (such as 4H and FFA) to develop a program promoting successful livestock guardian ownership.
We help donkey owners through tough times through our Rescue-In-Place Safety Net Program, thanks to a generous grant from the ASPCA. Learn more here.
When surrender is the only viable option, VDR will take the donkeys into our care until they can be placed as pets with approved adopters. Our services and surrender option are available to all donkey owners in Virginia, regardless of their situation. As life changes, and circumstances warrant, owners can’t always keep their donkeys or successfully rehome them. We are happy to help though our direct owner to adopter match-making service or surrender when needed.
Our focus is primarily on Virginia donkeys in part due to restrictions with bringing equines into the state. Additionally, to have the desired effect of building a strong volunteer force and reaching the number of donkey owners and animal welfare groups planned, our territory has to be manageable. We will help in surrounding states as we are able. We also hope to set an example of best practices and information sharing so that VDR can become the model for similar state or regionally focused donkey rescues.
This model will help fill a much needed void. While there are rescues in Virginia that accept donkeys, there are none that are solely focused on donkeys and their unique physiological and psychological needs.
What We Don’t Do:
It’s important to also clarify that we won’t purchase donkeys out of auctions or kill pens, nor do we accept surrendered donkeys that are known to come out of auctions or kill pens within the last 60 days. Doing so only creates an artificial demand that will drive the price of donkeys higher. If that happens, owners who would have otherwise considered surrender, may be more inclined to sell them at auction in hopes of making a profit. This could cause a flood of donkeys into these markets, defeating our primary mission. That would make us part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Finally, we won’t overburden our resources. It’s likely we will not always have the space, ability or resources to deal with every surrender. However, we will always do our best to offer referrals or alternate suggestions when this is the case.