BY TAYLOR SCHWEITZER
They’re friendly, small, very cute and need to live on acres of farmland to feel in their natural habitat. This makes them everything but easy to take care of.
Donkeys are part of the horse family, Equidae, as are zebras.
At The Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph, which began operations in 1992, they currently have nearly 100 donkeys.
“Here in North America, we are more familiar with horses than we are with donkeys,” said Terri Morris, a retired worker and now a volunteer at the sanctuary. “Since we know horses best, people will tend to treat a donkey like a horse. People will discipline donkeys like a horse and, of course, this isn’t good because they are much more sensitive to pain than a horse.”
Independence in donkeys is another quality that sets them apart. Both species have much different levels of comfort. Donkeys like to be independent and on their own, whereas horses need to have a dominant leader.
The Donkey Sanctuary takes in donkeys that have been abused and neglected and ones that can’t properly be cared for by their owners. The sanctuary has over 100 acres of property for the donkeys to roam free on.
Much like horses and other animals, donkeys may not get along with the ones that they are put in a pen with. Staff pay attention to a donkey’s behaviour so they can match the animals up properly to help them live stress-free.
“We keep a close eye on all of our donkeys because they’re all different,” Morris said. “We have to make sure that all of them get along in their pens so no destruction or problems happen.”
The Donkey Sanctuary is open to the public for $10 per adult and $5 per seniors and children. The Sanctuary encourages people to donate and sponsor the donkeys, which allows people to hear about how the donkey they sponsor is doing via newsletters and emails.
Aside from donkeys being such unique and beautiful creatures on the outside, they also have a talent for being great role models for other donkeys and even other animals.
“If I had room or needed a babysitter I would consider getting a donkey,” said Susan Voll-Kraft, a veterinarian technician at the Ontario Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Guelph. “They are great babysitters when it comes time to wean a foal. The (horse) foals look to donkeys for support and are influenced by their calm and steady behaviour. They reduce foal stress and instil friendly behaviour.”
For more information about Guelph’s Donkey Sanctuary, visit their website at www.thedonkeysanctuary.ca or call 519-836-1697.