Hee-haw! Off to the donkey sanctuary we go

Donkeys are misunderstood creatures often characterized as stubborn, stupid and strong.

In reality they are intelligent and analytical, says Lesley Bayne, executive director of the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.

“We say you tell a horse, you ask a donkey and you negotiate with a mule,” Bayne said to describe the differences in their personalities.

The Donkey Sanctuary in Canada turns 30 years old this August. Sandra Paty and her husband David bought 100 acres of land in Puslinch back before it was a sanctuary.

She didn’t know what she wanted to do with the farm at first when her neighbor asked if her sheep could graze and unfortunately a canine attacked one of the sheep.

To keep the sheep safe she heard donkeys were good guard animals.

“She later learned this was a myth,” said Bayne.

“We have a number of donkeys here who were purchased as guard animals who ended up killing the animals they were supposed to guard,” she explained. “Donkeys, unlike horses are fighters.”

The sanctuary has 100 animals, 15 of which are mules, a horse, donkey hybrid mix and the rest are donkeys.

“The ones most people hear about you know are the abuse, neglect, abandonment and those situations could look like anything,” said Bayne.

More often the donkeys who come to the sanctuary are ones who need a lot of training.

“We do have a very specific training program, step by step. It takes into account the individual needs of that animal and brings them through the training program to the point where they are absolutely untouchable to where the volunteers can pet them, groom them,” she said.

The sanctuary has a foster program so when donkeys are trained, another farm can take care of them, This way it opens up space for more animals to be rescued.

Fosters go through a rigorous screening process where they are interviewed and their farm is inspected. The donkeys are still owned by the sanctuary so if something goes wrong they can take them back.

Pepper, a young donkey, came to the sanctuary in November along with 11 other donkeys, the largest number of donkeys the sanctuary has taken on at one time. Bayne said it was difficult for the sanctuary especially since it was in the middle of winter.

At the time, two of the donkeys were pregnant, they discovered. Salsa lost her baby but thanks to medical she survived and lives in the sanctuary still.

They also have a couple donkeys with special needs. One of them is named Oliver Twist. He got his name because his ear is twisted, he is missing the other ears and is blind in both eyes. Bayne said he is one of the favorites because of his kind nature.

The sanctuary is open to tours which can be booked online and they have open days every Sunday in the summer where visitors can drop by.

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