IT’S donkey heaven at the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary at St Boswells this festive season.
For arriving in time for Christmas were the evicted 52-year-old Cracker and five donkeys, including a foal saved from the French meat market.
The sanctuary has also taken in Pumpkin, a foal being hand-reared after she was rejected by her mother. Storm, a donkey rescued from a field but rejected by his new friends, is expected on December 28.
The centre’s welfare officer Kate Byrne said: “With that lot we are full for the time being – there is no more room at the inn!”
The sanctuary has rescued donkeys from France before.
Kate said: “The French meat trade is just terrible. The regulations are not adhered to and the transport is awful: a lot of people feel very strongly about the cruelty.” Leftover money donated from animal lovers across the country for a cancer operation for Dusty, another sanctuary donkey, went towards rescuing the French animals, along with an anonymous donation.
Kate explained: “We signed up for three French donkeys, but the ones we saw were all gone and there were four in the group we were offered next, but the fourth is broken to drive and is going to a lovely driving home here.
“Then just as the lorry was about to set off with the four, there was a pregnant jenny with them and Mrs Dale (sanctuary owner Rosemary) couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her behind, so she came too.
“They have all settled in and are absolutely fine,” said Kate on Tuesday.
From Berwickshire, the elderly Cracker was evicted, along with his animal-loving owner who had rescued him 20 years previously. The average age of a donkey is about 30, with the oldest recorded at 60.
“His owner was particularly concerned about Cracker and rang desperately looking for a place for him.
“We’ve had a stable refurbished for him and it’s got a heater, obviously, for a donkey of that age in the winter,” said Kate.
Young foal Pumpkin is in an enclosure next to the French jenny and her foal. Kate said: “She was born in a nice home – I think she was a surprise foal, but her mum rejected her on the spot.”
Her owner had been hand feeding her for six weeks, but was exhausted and felt “she should have some donkey friends of her own”, said Kate.
The foal is now being bottle fed around the clock by volunteers, Rosemary and Kate.
And Storm was taken in by a livery yard in Lanarkshire after he was abandoned in a field. But the horses at the yard are bullying the little donkey, so he will arrive at the sanctuary on December 28, weather permitting.