Launch of the Animal Aid / Brooke India Injury Prevention Program
Animal Aid is Rajasthan’s only donkey sanctuary, housing about 30 permanently disabled donkeys. These are donkeys who were either abandoned by their owners because they were too crippled or old to work anymore, or who became injured by car accidents and other injuries.
Working donkeys suffer terribly as a result of human ignorance. Anyone in Udaipur can see donkeys over-loaded with bricks and sand, sores ripping open skin on buttocks and legs from incorrect harnessing and hobbling.
The donkeys are usually worked by women and young children, may of whom are themselves overworked and mistreated. The program involves our staff getting to know owners as individuals, to learn their life struggles and to help inspire and inform them about ways to treat their animals, their children and themselves with more respect.
We have sought and received help from Brooke’s professionals several times over the years and now are pleased and privileged to announce the launch of a six-month “intensive intervention” by Animal Aid’s staff in Udaipur’s working donkey community, fully funded by The Brooke India.
Brooke’s method is to use a consistent, objective health assessment technique, donkey by donkey, looking at eyes, skin condition, evidence of foot problems, wounds, ears, teeth, tails. Where problems are identified, solutions are provided and improvements in the donkeys’ condition will be tracked. Where conditions are not improving, focus on owners will become more intense. The village headman, tribal leaders, politicians or people considered influential in their communities will be included in meetings so that social pressure—particularly praise when people’s practices improve and their donkeys grow stronger.
Many work in brick kilns where fires burn all day and all night, and temperatures on the working paths in the vicinity of the kilns have been recorded at 50 Celsius / 122 Fahrenheit. This is where the donkeys spend much of their lives, rising early to carry raw bricks to and from the kilns.
Other donkeys work on construction sites in the cities and villages, carrying truck loads of sand, bricks or other building materials where narrow roads prevent the entry of the trucks.
Riverbed sand removal is common in Maharashtra. In hilly areas such as the foothills of the Himalayas, donkeys, mules and ponies are often used to pack common wares up rocky steep paths where vehicle roads are few.
The census we conducted here in Udaipur revealed the presence of about 700 working donkeys.
Working horses fortunately have been mainly phased out in this region. But not donkeys. With their nimble feet and compliant natures, they fit well on narrow streets built before tractors and big cars.
Generally the donkey owners are paid by the kilo of material moved—sand, bricks, water, debris—so from their point of view, the “best value” comes from getting the most labor out of the fewest number of animals.
While some owners feed their donkeys a reasonably good diet of crushed grains and dry hay, many owners cut corners by sending their donkeys into urban neighbourhoods to seek food from plastic bag-riddled garbage heaps. In this region there is very little plant life that survives the blistering sun and absence of water.
Grazing is made even more difficult by the absence of open ground. Private owners and the government barricade entry from most land in the city limits with impenetrable stone boundary walls.
By the time donkeys are rescued with injuries or illnesses at Animal Aid they are usually too far-gone to return to work, and we keep them forever. Here in an environment of safety, rest, great food, peace and affectionate grooming, the donkeys’ sunny dispositions gradually emerge.
The Animal Aid / Brooke India Injury Prevention Program is sure to dramatically reduce the abuse. Daily visits by two staff members to the work sites and homes of the owners will include interviews, donkey assessments, teaching sessions, treatments, weekly measuring of progress in welfare of each and every donkey in the region.
We are excited and thrilled to know that we will be able to prevent some of the many preventable horrors that bring us our permanent resident donkeys. We wish none of them had ever had reason to come join our sanctuary but…
We love them all—Bubbly, Smokey, Lance, Wizard, Stampella, Teddy, Chinky, Yadav…each is a unique personality with curiosity, play, intelligence and sensitivity.
And yes, most have a degree of our very favourite ingredient: Naughtiness!