“Ownership is essential,” Lesley Bayne, director of the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC) says about equine rescue. “We don’t adopt animals out because you never know what happens to them,” she says.
The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada located in Puslinch, Ontario about one-hour west of Toronto, does indefinitely foster out several of the donkeys and mules that end up in its care, but always maintains ownership so the animals can be taken back at any time.
Animals at the sanctuary are rescued from abuse and neglect, taken from slaughter houses or surrounded by owners no longer able to care for them.
Currently about 80 donkeys, 12 mules, two goats and one cat live on the 100 acre property along with about 40 in the care of foster families. Tequila, a donkey, arrived bonded with two goat friends Gibbles and Nibbles and all three now live together with several other donkeys of similar sizes.
A new arrival, Kingston, looks like a horse grazing along the fence separate from a clumping of mules. He’s working on fitting in with the other mules – despite appearances, he’s actually half donkey and half Clydesdale. A victim of neglect, he’s slowly adjusting to the safety of his new surroundings.
For 17 years, this non-for-profit charity has been funded entirely by private donations, fundraising and events – open houses Sundays and Wednesdays, October to November, are part of the latter.
That’s where Bayne’s expertise comes in. Formally a marketing and event planner, about a year ago she exchanged big-city charity fundraising for the tranquility of rural sanctuary … and more fundraising and event planning. Unlike the founding director of the sanctuary, Sandra Pady, Bayne doesn’t live on site but the operations manager does and several other full-time employees take care of the stables.
Seventeen years ago, Pady fulfilled a dream of rescuing animals by starting the Donkey Sanctuary on her own property with husband David Pady. Modelled after The Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain, this Canadian cousin to date has provided life-long sanctuary to more than 200 equine.
I first met Pady about 15 years ago, shortly after the farm opened to the public. I wrote about the sanctuary previously on horsetrotting.net, shortly after Pady retired and built another home nearby several years ago. Bayne is the second director to take the reins from the founder.
Last time here, I was as a visitor during one of the summer Sunday open houses. I learned a lot about donkeys and mules, which is the point of opening to the public:
- Donkeys do not live in hierarchical herds like horses, and therefore rarely do well in horse herds.
- Donkeys are their own species but mules are half donkey and half horse and are missing one chromosome so they are infertile.
- Donkeys are originally from North Africa where they foraged for shrubs and grass and are not genetically predisposed to digesting Western lush grassy fields, so develop health problems when left to graze like horses.
- Donkeys and mules should live separately, as they do at the DSC.
- Donkeys come in different sizes from mammoth to mini and at the DSC the male and female minis are kept apart.
This time around, I visited as a writer interviewing the director and I learned another important lesson: animal ‘rescue’ or ‘sanctuary’ is not an official designation and there’s no Canadian governing body monitoring the use of the title.
“Anyone can claim to be a rescue and some aren’t caring for the animals well,” Bayne says. Non-profit or charitable status is a legal designation concerning finances, but doesn’t monitor facilities or care of animals.
As of 2017, The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada is only one of two animal facilities accredited with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a global organization setting standards for equine rescues and sanctuaries (depending on adoption policies). GFAS ‘accreditation’ or ‘verification’ depends on compliance with a long list of criteria ranging from quality of vet care, meeting of nutritional requirements (donkey’s are different from horses), staffing, and housing.
It takes about $1300 a year to keep a donkey or mule at the sanctuary, so they mean business. You can sponsor an animal for a minimum annual donation of $75, or do all your gift shopping at the Long Ears Boutique, the DSC shop and online store where all buying benefits the burrows.
Checkout horsetrotting.net previous hero profile: Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary.
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