By Jovana Ivanstanin
Whilst sitting happily on my sofa in London, I came across a Facebook photo of two donkeys in Serbia. The photo was taken by someone who fosters dogs for the shelter we support and I noticed the donkeys were in very poor condition, so I contacted the person who posted it for more information. He explained that the owner of the donkeys was a drunk who had threatened people who attempted to rescue the donkeys before with an axe and a knife, as well as a massive dog.
He also told me that there was a third donkey who got hit by a car and while still alive, the owner came to cut its throat with a knife as he refused to have the vet come and tend to the poor donkey. I felt I had no choice but to put the donkeys out of my mind as I couldn’t expect anyone to risk their own life to help them.
A few weeks later, I was in Serbia with others from the Forgotten Paws team as well as founders of Happy Endings Sanctuary. I told them about the donkeys and their crazy owner and together we decided we should go and see them in person.
With the help of our Serbian friends we found the mother and foal. The mother was tethered with no shade or available water. The daughter stayed with her. They were very sweet and gentle and enjoyed the attention but looked incredibly sad. From the river nearby, we brought two buckets of water to the mother who eagerly drank them.
Immediately we knew we couldn’t walk away. We had to help the donkeys. After speaking to the locals, we found out that the mother donkey has been there for at least five years! How she survived, we don’t know. The temperatures in Serbia go into –20 degrees in winter and she had no shelter.
The daughter was overall in okay condition, unlike her mother whose feet had not seen a farrier for years. The foal wasn’t tethered, so could walk about and get a drink from the river. The older donkey’s feet resembled peasant shoes and curled upwards. The poor girl couldn’t walk properly. Both of them had a million burrs in their coats and their hair had fallen out where they both had rope around their necks.
We left the donkeys and went away planning where to put them and how to get the owner to give them up. With the help of Zoo Planeta in Serbia, we found a lovely family who would foster the donkeys, but we would be responsible for all their costs from feed to the farrier. Now we just had to deal with the owner.
After many phone calls, eventually we reached an agreement. The man would sell us the donkeys for 300 euros and sign a contract with witnesses stating that the donkeys had been sold to us. As much as we did not want to give him the money, that was the only way these donkeys could be saved, so the five of us put our personal money together and became responsible for the two neglected hairy beasts!
We couldn’t wait to get the donkeys to their foster home. For the first time in years, these donkeys will receive care and attention as well as be fed and watered appropriately. The farrier has been booked as well as the vet for their overall health check up, vaccinations and deworming.
To learn more about Forgotten Paws or for updates on the donkeys, visit our website www.forgotten-paws.com