The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which was established in 2007, is the only globally recognized organization providing standards for identifying legitimate animal sanctuaries. Recently, it awarded Accredited status to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC). The DSC is the first equine sanctuary in Canada to receive this Accreditation.
The GFAS standards have been put into place in order to identify the principles of true sanctuaries: ones that provide excellent and humane care for their animals in a non-exploitative environment and having ethical principles in place regarding tours, commercial trade, exhibition, acquisition and disposition, and breeding. While a sanctuary can received Verification of their operation according to those principles, Accreditation status requires that operations meet GFAS Standards of Excellence as well.
The process of accreditation by GFAS is lengthy and detailed. Comprehensive documents are required to be submitted in the areas of Animal Care and Housing, Staffing, Safety and Security, Governance and Finance, and Policies. Thereafter, a site visit by a GFAS representative takes place. Attention is given to every aspect of operations, both in the present and as planned for the future. Further, Standards of excellence have been developed by the GFAS for the care, treatment and management of particular animal groups. The DSC’s work was assessed according to those criteria established for equine care. This Accreditation will be revisited every three years.
Currently, there are 157 groups in 15 countries that have been assessed by the GFAS. It is an affirmation of the high quality of our work that DSC operations and structure have been found to deserve Accreditation.
Sandra Pady, Founder
As we work day to day at The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, we keep in mind always that it is our community of supporters who make possible all that we achieve. It costs over a million dollars each year for us to help so many animals in need, to provide them with a lifelong home and to share, through education, our deep commitment to the improvement of standards of animal welfare across the board. For twenty-six years it has been a privilege to receive the encouragement of so many donors and to work on your behalf.
On an ongoing basis we aim to provide the best for our donkey and mule residents and the daily challenges can be tremendously consuming. At the same time, though, we remind ourselves that the importance of today must be measured in the context of the future. The animals live long lives and many will need our help ten, twenty years hence. The needs of future generations in every walk of life are as important as the needs of today.
Planning for the future prompted our decision to purchase Walnut Ridge Farm in 2010, so that the donkeys could have a permanent home. This became possible when a substantial bequest allowed the DSC to make the down payment. “Meeting the mortgage” has been going on ever since and by the end of 2017 we had made significant payments.j
That was the situation for us when January rolled around this year when notice came in to us of a particular bequest, received from a long time donor. Over the years this woman had visited the Farm often and she was devoted to the cause of the animals’ welfare. It was this commitment, we know, that prompted her to arrange her affairs so that she could help in a major way to secure the donkeys’ futures. It means so very much to be able to state that as a result of this substantial bequest, the mortgage on Walnut Ridge Farm has been eliminated.
On behalf of the entire DSC community, we express our gratitude for this far-reaching, helpful support.
Sandra Pady, Founder
For all of its small size the Netherlands is often a world leader when it comes to social policies. Its parliamentary representative democracy sparks legislation that is often the source of innovative social policies, ones that emerge as a result of coalition governments wherein the smaller parties are able to have their voices heard.
In 2010, just such a situation prevailed and the result was the enactment of far-reaching policies and legislation with regard to animal welfare and care. At the ground level, this legislation caused the establishment of an animal police force. In the years since, this group of 250 officers (many more are trained but do not carry out the function exclusively) has made a tremendous and positive impact on the lives of thousands of animals.
Like a humane society with guns, handcuffs and badges, these officers respond to calls to the animal emergency line – dial 144 from any phone in the Netherlands. On any given day the officers might rescue a sick seal stranded on a beach, call out a fire reel so that a dog left out on a balcony in a storm does not freeze to death, investigate a complaint from neighbours about an animal hoarder, or charge an owner who has brutally beaten his dog.
Penalties for such cruel, thoughtless actions can include stiff fines (up to $25,000), many hours of community service, a ban from animal ownership and prison terms. As with so many aspects of police work, however, the officers find that the education that can be carried out in the course of these investigations is of primary importance. Relationships develop during follow up visits and these often mean that ignorant behaviour can be forestalled. The work is a mix of animal protection and human social services, finding practical solutions to problems so often the result of ignorance.
Along with the establishment of the animal police force in the Netherlands, legislation known as the Animals Act became law in 2013. This Act assumes that animals are sentient beings (and not just property which is the case in Canada) and it guarantees animals freedom from thirst, hunger, physical and emotional discomfort, and chronic stress.
There is much to be learned from the experience and the reality of animal welfare support in the Netherlands. Theirs is an example worthy of being followed here in Canada by legislators and activists across the land.
Sandra Pady, Founder
February has arrived and with it the sunshine has become more intense. Of course, the donkeys are most satisfied with this change. They stand as still as statues, bsking in the warm rays, with coats fluffed up. They can stand for hours like this on a bright, cold winter’s day.
For my part, as seems to happen each year at this time while I am admiring the animals in their bliss, my thoughts turn to the verse poem, PLATERO, by Juan Ramon Jimenez. This enchanting work, written in the early years of the last century, tells the story of the quiet adventures of a Spanish countryman and his little donkey, Platero. Although they live in a much milder climate than ours, the opening lines of the first section always bring to my mind the sight of the donkeys in the February sun.
” Platero is a small donkey, a soft, hairy donkey: so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones. Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard like two black crystal scarabs.”
From the beginning, the poet shares his trust and respect for his equine companion. With minimal description he brings us into their world, one that is real for them and yet so very, very far from our own today.
“He is as loving and tender as a child, but strong and sturdy as a rock. When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving countrymen, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively: “He is like steel,” they say. Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.”
As I lean against the fence at the paddock’s side, the donkeys and Platero are one.
Sandra Pady, Founder
I wore my down parka, quilted coveralls, angora wool hat, long knitted scarf, and double-thickness donkey mittens for our walk this morning. As the dogs padded along, the sun was so bright that it made me squint while the only sound to be heard was the crunching of my boots on the snowy lane.
No donkeys were outside during our visit but the mules were standing in two groups, not quite touching, seemingly impervious to the cold. They are like their horse kin in that regard, preferring the out of doors.
The silence all around prompted meditative thoughts. Memories of the passing year included feelings of satisfaction and gratitude for having been able to help so many animals in need. At the same time their presence, along with those of their herd mates, brought comfort and joy to thousands of visitors. People came and went with a greater appreciation for the fact that animals do matter. All together, the DSC has made a profound impact these past twelve months and we know well that this is thanks to the combined efforts of donors, staff and volunteers.
It looks like there will be a few more days like this one, when we contemplate the past and then we will turn our minds to the year to come. May 2018 be a year for us all that is filled with the peacefulness and beauty of the natural world.
Sandra Pady, Founder
Little Pansy died earlier this week. She was 34 years old and during her 23 years with us she brought much quiet pleasure to countless people.
We brought Pansy (on the left) and Poppy, mother and daughter, to the DSC in 1995 and I remember my first sight of them very well. My friend, Virginia Buchanan-Smith, and I had driven the trailer to pick them up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec where they had lived all of their lives. Actually, Virginia did the driving; over the years, her skills at the wheel have allowed us to make many donkey-related trips. The animals’ caregiver was particularly fond of them and she would not have parted with her little donkeys had it not been for the sale of her farm as a result of divorce. When we arrived they were standing in a field, close up to Paddington, their almost mammoth-sized donkey companion. We brought him to the DSC, too.
Pansy and Poppy were inseparable companions and early on they settled into life in our barnyard. We had placed them in the fields with the larger herd but they were uninterested in other company. They would slip like lightning through the gates whenever they were opened, and it just became a part of every day to see them standing under the trees in the lane. Added to their determination was the fact that both little donkeys were amiable and endlessly patient with pats and hugs from visitors and volunteers.
A vivid memory that I am glad to have is of the day when Virginia and I took Pansy and Poppy to Toronto to pass some time with one of our donors who was experiencing the last stage of cancer. She had great affection for these donkeys and when her husband made the request, we welcomed the opportunity to arrange a final visit.
The woman’s home was located in the north part of the city, on a small lot. Calmly, Virginia drove the trailer down the city streets and deftly slipped the vehicle into a double parking place just down from the house. When Pansy and Poppy trotted down the ramp, Virginia slipped a pink peony into each of their halters. Then we walked proudly down the street and into the backyard where the pair were welcomed by the woman and her husband. Virginia and I sat apart on the deck while the little group moved around the lawn, the couple murmuring all the while to the donkeys. It was a sunny afternoon so they stood under the sprawling branches of a maple tree in the corner. ( Of course, Pansy and Poppy enjoyed the opportunity to snack on the grass at their feet! ) All together, we passed about half an hour in this way. Then, the woman started to tire and we sensed that it was time to leave. Our parting was quiet and filled with emotion.
Over the years, Pansy and Poppy were special ambassadors on many other occasions for the DSC. They were comfortable riding in the trailer and they became veterans of many Christmas church services. Then, much to everyone’s sadness, Poppy died in 2011. We were consoled by the fact that Pansy was not to be alone, though; little Sable stepped into place and remained at Pansy’s side for many years. After Sable, Katy, another Miniature, provided companionship.
We were fortunate to be able to spend so long with Pansy. The air feels emptier these days in the barnyard now that she has left us but when we think of Pansy we always smile and remember the joy that her presence brought.
Sandra Pady, Founder