VOLUME 1 | ISSUE 22 | Donkey Day

The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada Hosts Donkey Day 2012

by: David Sarachman

So I am at home watching television when the screen goes dark. And then I hear it: the opening chords to “Arms of an Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. Before I can throw my chair at the TV to stop the inevitable, there comes picture upon picture of abused, neglected animals. I curl up in a corner weeping and throwing money at the TV. If your heart is more than a cardboard cutout, you know what I mean. And you’ve been there, too.

What I want to bring to your attention, though, is not about dogs or cats or marmosets or some other animal I just Googled. Something has been brought to my attention and when I actually looked into it, I was compelled by the echoing diabolicalness of poignant ballads to mention it here.

On June 10, from 10am to 4pm, the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC) is having its 19th annual Donkey Day. I didn’t have any idea, either.

Before I get into what you can expect when you go to Donkey Day, I want to touch on why you should even care and then you can decide if saving some donkeys is worth ten dollars (by the way, it costs ten dollars for the day).

The DSC was founded as a charity in 1992 and is the labour of love of Sandra and David Pady with the purpose of providing a means to rescue donkeys, mules and hinnies (horse father, donkey mother). To that effect they purchased 100 acres of farmland outside of Guelph and, over the course of the history of the DSC, 142 equines have been given a home – some through foster farms as well.

Foster farms are farms that have been extensively vetted by the DSC with interviews and visits. The DSC is driven to ensure that a potential host can meet all of the needs of the foster pets they intend on taking in. The progress of the animals is continuously monitored through seasonal visits from DSC personnel. DSC remains the custodians for all animals in the foster program and, as such, they may collect them if necessary.

But why should you care? Because you have a heart, that’s why. And because when you see an animal suffering you should at least want to do something about it. Now no one is asking you to don mask and cape and ride off to rescue a donkey in distress. The DSC has got that covered. But they need help and they have found that the best way to make you want to help is by providing information and education on the subject (hence Donkey Day).

This year’s Donkey Day is ripe with all sorts of fun. A learning centre? Yep, they have that. Wagon rides? They got that, too. In fact they have so much going on that day that you will totally meet your quota of donkey fun for the year. As an added thing this year (and for the first time ever) they are having a “Name the Donkey” contest where you can enter your chosen name, with the winning name awarded to their very next rescue. (By the way, they already have a donkey named “Don Quixote” in their care, and if you do not think that is just the coolest name for a donkey, then…well…just stop reading now, close this magazine, run out into the streets and hunt down a copy of Man of La Mancha. Go on, I can wait.)

I was able to reach Ruth Gillespi, manager of the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, via email for more information. I was able to find out things like the fact that for a healthy youngish donkey it costs around $1,600 a year, but that is just for food, vaccines, dewormer, teeth float (not a tasty ice cream beverage), and an annual vet check. What that doesn’t cover is the maintenance of the 5-mile fence (100 acre farm, remember), farm equipment, buckets, shovels, grooming tools, masks (for the staff, not the donkeys), stalls, and staff salaries (five full-time and four part-time staff). That number is even higher for a sick or elderly donkey. This is all for the life of a single donkey, which can live for 40 to 50 years – and the DSC has 61 on the farm right now! They have an operating budget of $700,000 a year, all of which is raised through private donations, bequests, and some corporate funding in relation to the annual Donkey Day.

Ruth Gillespi informed me:

“Two thousand visitors come for a day in the country on Donkey Day. Our mission is to provide a forever home to donkeys and mules that are abandoned, neglected, abused, or unwanted, and to educate people about the forgotten equine, which is often ridiculed, and the subject of pervasive negative stereotyping. Donkeys and mules are often considered disposable at the end of their ‘useful’ working life and are relegated to auctions where they are commonly purchased for slaughter. People have let donkeys down, usually due to lack of knowledge or money, but sadly, sometimes due to outright abuse and neglect. Our goal is to put an end to an inhumane cycle in which equines are bred, bought, and sold over and over, and then callously disposed of at the end of what humans consider their useful lives. We are funded solely by private donations by individuals and through bequests. We do not receive any government or foundation funding. We have been fortunate over the past few years to receive some corporate support, primarily through our major annual fundraising event, Donkey Day.”

So there you have it, kids. Go visit the site at the bottom of all this word stuff and decide for yourself if 10 dollars is worth both a hoot and a nanny out in the country for a day spent with the donkeys and mules (nature’s kittens of the animal kingdom). They are going to have a harpist there, too. And she probably won’t play “Arms of an Angel” while you’re there, so there’s that.


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