A group of Portuguese volunteers who are dedicated to the wellbeing of donkeys has set up a retirement shelter for old, ill, neglected or unwanted equine animals in the northern Miranda do Douro region, supported by the British ‘The Donkey Sanctuary’ charity.
Run entirely by volunteers, among them vets and farriers, the CAB (Centro de Acolhimento do Burro) donkey centre is
the first of its kind in the Transmontana region and is subsidised by the UK-based ‘The Donkey Sanctuary’ charity, as part of its Outreach Welfare Programme.
Located in Pena Branca, Miranda do Douro, the centre aims to take in unwanted animals that are sick, too old to work, abandoned, neglected or whose owners can no longer physically or financially keep them.
Donkey vet Miguel Nóvoa, spokesperson for CAB and also a founder of the AEPGA association created to promote and protect donkeys, particularly the Miranda breed, said the aim is to “improve living conditions” for animals in such circumstances.
“With the objective of giving new value to rescued animals who are in good physical and mental health, we have implemented a foster programme whereby the animal is reintegrated into new homes while at the same time all its necessary veterinary care is ensured”, he explained.
Speaking to The Portugal News Miguel Nóvoa added that, in the “past ten years, things have changed a lot” regarding donkeys’ roles on farms.
“There is an excess in their breeding”, he believes, adding that people who buy or breed donkeys for their milk are not getting “a goose that lays a golden egg.”
“People need to bear in mind that a donkey can live for around 35 years. During that time they need to be looked after and their wellbeing made a priority. They can last a lifetime”, Mr. Nóvoa warned.
The CAB project was first drawn up in 2004, but only in 2011 were the cogs set into motion.
Open all year round, the volunteers are also looking to develop a range of assisted activities such as Asinotherapy, to help children with special needs, as well as offering therapeutic visits for the elderly from local communities.
“The Donkey Sanctuary provides an indispensable support”, Miguel Nóvoa says, “not only financially but also technically, scientifically and professionally.”
Andrew Judge, Head of Operations – Europe at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Within Northern Portugal the care of each donkey is on the whole very good, with many owners viewing the animal as part of their family. It’s just the lack of education in looking after their animals that is the main cause of concern. Common problems that Miguel sees on a daily basis is overgrown hooves and bad dental hygiene. This is mainly down to the area being an extremely poor part of the country, where residents are unable to afford the treatments to look after their animals.”
One of the main reasons The Donkey Sanctuary subsidises the shelter is to offer a “happy retirement” to each of these hard-working donkeys.
“Since the area is predominantly a working area, it’s understood what a necessity a donkey is to the lives of the Transmontana region. The Outreach Programme offers a scheme to ‘swap’ donkeys also, where they put people in touch with other donkey owners. Some who can no longer look after their donkeys but are still able to work, and others who are looking for a new working donkey”, he explained.
The Donkey Sanctuary is the world’s largest donkey and mule charity which for the last 43 years has been dedicated to easing the “despair, agony and hopelessness” of donkeys around the world.
It has branches in the UK, Italy and Cyprus, as well as having centres in other countries such as Romania, Greece, France and Portugal.