Rescue Donkey {Part 2, Case Study} Why I do this

Why a Rescue Donkey

It’s stressful and can be expensive, so why bother with a rescue donkey? I’ve rescued dozens of donkeys over the years. Some I shouldn’t have because I didn’t have the time or skills when I started this. Yes, it’s a good way to lear, butt it’s also a good way to get hurt if you don’t know what you are doing.

Some rescue donkeys I’ve had here were owner surrenders that called me directly and asked me to take a donkey that needed a home. Many I pulled from the ‘running stock’ donkeys to be sold by the pound for meat stock at the auction myself. If you haven’t read the first part of this series now is a good time to do so Rescue a Donkey {Part 1} Be Prepared

I have a system I use to help me pick the donkeys that will be less likely to be aggressive and easier to handle. Meaning I can get them the care they need faster and it’s less risk of injury to work with them. My vets and farriers appreciate this.

I’m only 1 person. The really feral ones can be dangerous and take a long time to handle safely. I can take on a completely feral rescue donkey like that sometimes, but not all the time. If I get hurt, I can’t help any donkeys or care for my own. 

Rescue Donkeys Case Study: Jeb

I’ve taken in so many wonderful donkeys over the years, but there is one donkey that is probably the reason I keep doing it. Jeb…


Jeb was in such bad shape my husband asked me not to take him. He was worried that Jeb couldn’t even make it home. The poor guy had the worst hooves I had ever seen, so I knew there would be extra cost and time for that. Badly foundered and slippered hooves, I couldn’t believe he was walking. He was a bag of bones. Being a white donkey with more sensitive skin, I could see he had allergies and skin issues to go with his long list of problems. 

He seemed friendly, but when the donkey is this unhealthy, it could have been that he just didn’t have the energy to be aggressive or even move away.

I knew this was a risk too. I was very busy at that time in my life, so I wasn’t looking for a huge project. Between his poor health and unknown temperament because of poor health, he was the opposite of what I was looking for. 

Jacks are most at risk for slaughter

For some reason, in my gut, I wanted this donkey bad! Even if it meant he would need to be euthanized or if he turned into a big training project. 

He was an intact, white jack. Being a jack would mean the added expense of a gelding surgery. Jacks are most at risk to be placed in kill pens with little hope of rescue. 

Obviously in horrible health. Small standard sized.  He turned out to be 9 years old but he looked so much older!

NOTE ON LIES AT HORSE SALES:  You can’t always trust the Coggins. Horse flippers often use in date Coggins that were issued to other equine and just stick them with new equines they are taking to sales. I’ve had many rescue donkeys from pens where the Coggins misrepresented their age. Never believe the auctioneer. Jeb’s papers said he was five years old and brown! Obviously no one checked this info when he was dropped off. Meat buyers don’t really care about such things and auctions do not check. 

His teeth were in bad shape so I had to have the equine vet float them. Jeb actually recovered extremely quickly and gained weight fast! Thankfully, he was not opposed to being touched, so could apply my herbal healing salve to his skin.

Took several trims to get his feet to look ok, and he went lame a few times. Each time he had to be sedated because he got extremely aggressive. It took me 3 years to pick up his feet without him kicking at me. His feet hurt him for a long time and he was very protective of them.

Training Jeb

Jeb fell into haltering and leading quickly. This made me think at some point in his life someone loved him. He just accepted being handled and trusted me to led him anywhere except to the farrier. He showed no sign of physical abuse like being hit or beat. Just abuse from neglect for his health needs. 

I love this donkey like crazy!  There is no way I can rehome him. He’s mine, and I’m definitely his.

Last year I trained Jeb to pull a cart without issue in 2 weeks. Results not typical! After that, something clicked, and he allowed me to pick up his feet without issue. His extreme acceptance to be trained to a cart also makes me think he had previous training and love. Donkeys may not reveal all they know until they trust you but they never forget either. For more about Jeb’s driving training go here How to Train a Driving Donkey {With Videos}

He’s a hiking buddy, a driving donkey, a pack donkey and he’s my therapy donkey. If I’m sad and just need some time to sit in my barnyard he’s always the first to come and lay his head on my shoulder. 

Jeb is the #1 reason I keep taking in ‘rescue donkeys” from the kill pens when I can. 

Case Study: Daisy

Jeb is what everyone wishes when they get a rescue donkey. One that almost immediately accepts you and regains health quickly. One that ends up being a huge love of your life. It happens!

But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes donkeys and horses from kill pens have deep traumas. Not all of them get over being tossed aside or neglected so easily. Many of them do not bounce back health-wise. Not all of them accept you or their new home quickly.

I’ve got success stories, and I’ve got heartbreaking stories. Stories of frustration, tears, and loss. Loss of time, money and hope. 

Daisy is the most recent donkey I’ve taken in. I took her in for my birthday. She was in a local meat pen ready to be shipped to slaughter. I didn’t need to take on another project, but I jumped in and went for it. She looked to be in good weight, she was walking well. Didn’t seem kicky or aggressive in any way.

I thought ok, I can make time for her.

How to rescue a donkey. Be prepared

The Lies, they tell.

I typically prefer to go to the meat pen myself so I can see firsthand what I’m getting, but I took a chance here and bought her from an online kill pen. 

I never believe the meat buyers or feedlot guys… here are the primary lies told about Daisy:

  • Lie 1. She’s mammoth. Well, not really. She’s the color of a lot of mammoths, and she’s taller than most donkeys around here. Good stocky bone structure. I could see she wasn’t a big ol’ 14hh girl, but so long as she was 13hh I was ok with it. This way I can train her to be a saddle donkey for a lady or kid if I wanted too.
  • Lie 2: She has perfect hooves! Do these look like perfect hooves to you… cause these hooves look like time and money to me… This lie was a stretch, even for a feedlot guy!

rescue donkey

  • Lie 3: Her udder is huge, and she’s about to have a foal any moment! Then he even said ‘and she didn’t just have a foal pulled off her either!’ which tells me… she’s probably swollen because she just had a foal pulled off her! She didn’t look big enough to be that ready to foal, and so I was actually hoping she wasn’t about to drop a foal any moment! But still, why lie? There was another lot of 2 small foals for sale. I’m betting one was hers.

Her Current Situation.

Poor Daisy is also the example of a donkey that is so traumatized she is not bouncing back. In fact, I’m afraid she won’t make it. I’ve never had a donkey refuse to eat for so long when there is nothing we can see wrong but stress. 

Being down this road before I know taking on a kill pen donkey is a gamble, but she’s been an extra emotional roller coaster for me. One day she’s eating a little, then she’ll go 2 days without a bite. At first, she was grinding her teeth, very down and depressed, but now she seems alert and healthy. 

Yet, she refuses food except for a few bites here and there. She’s barely eating enough for a foal, let alone a 13hh adult. 

Live or die I’m glad she didn’t have to take that hideous trip to Mexico to be slaughter painfully and inhumanly. Have you heard it’s not so bad? Watch this documentary From the Kill Pen. 

It’s focused on horses, but the donkeys make the same trip. It’s free to watch with prime. Watch and become informed about what is happening to these poor equines. 

** Update: It looks like Daisy had strangles. This is a common bacteria that equine can get in the auctions and meat pens. It can be hard to diagnose because donkeys rarely express the symptoms as clearly as horses. A good example of why you need to quarantine. She is still having good days and bad. 

Hiking with my rescue donkey
Hiking with Jeb. One of the best donkeys I’ve ever known

Rescue a Donkey, Now what?

I’ve probably given you the best case study example and one of the harder case examples. Be prepared and know that it can go either way. If it goes a bad way, at least you tried! And a poor donkey didn’t have to suffer.

There will be one more article to this series. It will be my method on how I personally rescue a donkey from a kill pen that I think will be easier to handle. I’ve used it many times and shared it with others who successfully rescued a donkey this way and didn’t get over their head. It’s sad to leave the ones you can’t take behind, but you have to focus on the one you can take and give life too! 

If you’ve already rescued a donkey or want to please sign up from my Donkey Lovers List. I have a youtube channel and a Donkey Training Membership group too. Many resources for you to learn about donkey care and training. Donkeys can enhance your life if you know how to care for and train them. How can a donkey fit into your life? What would you do with it?

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