Patience is the donkey's virtue (French proverb)
Rural southwestern Bulgaria is still in high poverty. The farmers work with donkeys as they have done for centuries, letting them pull ploughs, carts with wood, and other loads. The trade in donkeys and horses is entirely in the hands of the local Romani population. They mostly sell strong young male animals to the farmers. Farmers love their animals, but they know little about their care and needs. In addition, they cannot afford a veterinarian. This leads to the donkeys hooves growing too long, or their protruding teeth preventing good and proper food consumption leading to colic and other health problems. There are parasites plaguing their bodies too. The bad hoof care makes the brave grey animals difficult to keep. Their too long hooves cause massive postural damage and severe pain. If the animals are then too sick to continue working, they are picked up by the middle man and sold to meat buyers. In agonizing transports, donkeys make their last journey – in most cases to the slaughterhouses of Mestre/Italy.
Vets in Action could not stand idle and watch such a misery: in 2010, in the village square of Banichan, we invited the farmers to bring their animals so that their hooves could be taken care of and their health problems treated. Within a short time, by word of mouth, farmers and their donkeys were queuing up! The idea of a mobile donkey care team developed from these beginnings: A veterinarian and a special person treating hooves have been on the road regularly since then and have visited more than 120 animals in 12 villages around every two months. The donkeys are examined and provided with free veterinary care with hoof care, parasite care and dental controls. That way we can guarantee the health, long life and strength of the animals. The only condition for the farmers is that if the donkey, or themselves, is too old or too ill to work together, the animal must not be sold, but must be handed over to vets in action.
Many donkeys can hardly walk anymore or have permanent posture damage because their hooves have not been shortened.
This donkey sustained many injuries trying to get up. Some donkeys are so weak or have such bad posture that they can hardly stand up.
Poorly patched chest harnesses constantly inflict unnecessary pain on the donkey at work.
Protruding teeth can lead to health problems, as the food can no longer be properly mashed. Regular dental checks also help the lovable grey animals.
Veterinary care prevents the suffering of these animals and improves their living conditions by advising their owners. In return, the farmers commit to treating their donkey with care and to leave it to the vets at the end of their working lives. Then the faithful working animals are allowed to move on and into the valley of the donkeys.