Max is a Mammoth donkey and like so many others his size, he lumbers a bit. I was reminded of that tendency as I watched him move around from place to place in the lower barn earlier today. He had just finished his morning meal and was obviously curious to see what staff members were doing as they carried out their chores. (Max usually lives with the herd of geldings up at the Donkey House but when staff noticed that his weight was slipping, he was brought into the Special Needs area in the Century barn where he is fed extra rations 3 times a day.)

Max was born in 1996. He spent most of his life on a farm in Vermont where mules were bred and he was the stud donkey. For almost twenty years, time passed by peacefully enough for him, even given that mules can be fractious companions at times. His caregivers would have continued to look after him for several years more but for reasons of age they had to retire, and so they reached out to the DSC for help. We were able to take in Max and Star, one of the mules.

In spite of that aforementioned inclination to amble around a bit awkwardly, Max is a  handsome fellow, enjoying his retirement years living at the Sanctuary. He has been with us since 2017 and slowly, he has become accustomed to attentions from staff and volunteers. He was the subject of particular compliments in our recently published, DONKEY DRABBLES, book.

When next you visit the DSC, be sure to look out for Max. His winter coat is luxuriously soft right now and he enjoys nothing more than a nice scratch on his neck.  

DECEMBER 1, 8 and 15, 10am-3pm, Winter Holiday Open Days at the DSC…Max will be there to welcome you!


A recent article in The Globe and Mail (09/09/19), by Professor Alexandra Horowitz of Columbia University, addresses the harsh reality of proprietorial rights.  We own our furniture and we own our pets. 

Is that ethical?

It is, so long as we assign the same sensibility and emotional capacity to our pets as we do to our furniture. Of course, the initial reaction to such a proposition is one of dismissal, “Our pets are part of our family”, we say. “Our pets make decisions, they experience cold, they react to stress.  They are different altogether.” 

Different, yes, and there are some constraints on our treatment of them, but  Dr. Horowitz notes that qualifiers against the constraints are weighted completely in favour of the owners.  We say, “We can break a chair or throw it away, but we can’t do that to our pets!”. Not exactly.  On the one hand, our federal laws forbid injuring animals or throwing them away.  On the other hand, neglecting a pet is allowed, if it is not “willful”; so is throwing the pet away, as long as it’s in the direction of another set of arms, like an equine auction or a humane society shelter.  “We can smash our furniture to pieces, but we can’t do that to our pets!”.  Not exactly.  Causing animal suffering is disallowed, but only “unnecessary” suffering.  If it is deemed justified by the owner, say in an aberrant form of training that deems the suffering “necessary”, then it is allowed.  Dr. Horowitz concludes, “In the eyes of the law a dog is a chair is a dog.”

Isn’t it time for a change?

Over the past 50 years, myriad scientific studies have been carried out which demonstrate that animals feel pain, that they show rationality.  Added to the science is the philosophical rejection of that old saw that “animals have no souls”.  That argument works so long as you subscribe to a value system based upon concepts of superior and inferior, good and bad, ‘man’ and then the rest of the world.  Assumptions like those belong to the pre-21st Century mentality. Today, near the end of 2019, as we stare at the ravages of the human-caused climate crisis, it is plainer than ever that we are all related, that every action has a reaction, that we should give care rather than take ownership.

Of course, any societal change, whenever it takes place, takes place in small, measurable steps. Dr. Horowitz is partial to David Favre’s suggestion of a replacement definition for the human ownership of animals as ‘property’, to one that refers instead to animals as “living property.”  Such a term would acknowledge that our pets are agents, owners of themselves, along with being sentient creatures whose well-being should be the first human concern.  Such an enhanced definition brings with it a fundamental respect for the beings involved as well as more sympathetic interpretations to the laws that watch over them.

For me, it is not about ownership, it is about “living with” and I agree with Randy Sterling of Blenheim, ON, “Our laws need to change to allow the courts to better protect animals that are owned by animals.”

Sandra Pady, DSC Founder


While I was visiting the barn this morning I caught myself experiencing one of those infrequent revelatory moments in life when light and sound are clearer than usual.  The murmurs of staff as they carried out chores, the sweet snuffling noise that the donkeys made as they pushed their noses through the hay, the autumnal morning light that was moving through the sky.  The sensations coursed through my mind and with them came fresh appreciation for the work that is being done by our charitable organization.

At all times, the donkeys and mules receive the kindest, most thoughtful, professional treatment.  Animal care staff and volunteers look to the animals’ needs while others engage with the thousands of visitors that come up the lane, in addition to staff who reach out to share our experiences and knowledge with the greater community. Our example is meant to inform, to educate.

On mornings like this one, there was renewed clarity of purpose for me, and the words of Russell Means, the Oglala Lakota activist, came to mind with fresh inspiration:

“We’re not here because we’re concerned about the odds against us.  And we’re not here because we’re concerned about winning or losing.  We’re here because this is the right place to be, the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.  You do what you can in the present and that contributes to whatever the future is going to be.”

That’s how I felt as I gazed around the barn this morning. Yes, we can. Each one of us can.

Sandra Pady, Founder


Sunday, October 27th, will be the last regular Open Day at the DSC Farm this year.  Its arrival will herald an appreciated  break for volunteers, staff and the animals too, because the days have been busy giving a welcome to almost 20,000 visitors these past 6 months. In the process myriad questions have been answered, informative lectures have been given,  countless, stories about the donkeys’ histories have been related, thousands of pats have touched furry coats – with all of this being done in the hope that young and old will better understand  the dimensions, requirements and responsibilities of “taking care” of our animal friends.

Back in 2010 the Canadian poet, Ken Babstock, visited the Sanctuary.  He watched, listened and admired the donkeys, mules, hinnies, and their caregivers. The poem below is the chronicle of this visit. Every time I read it, I learn something new about what we are doing here and why it is being done.

Autumn News from the Donkey Sanctuary

Cargo has let down
her hair a little and stopped pushing
Pliny the Elder on

the volunteer labour.
During summer it was all Pliny the Elder,
Pliny the Elder, Pliny

the – she’d cease only
for Scotch thistle, stale Cheerios, or to reflect
flitty cabbage moths

back at themselves
from the wet river-stone of her good eye. Odin,
as you already know,

was birthed under
the yew tree back in May, and has made
friends with a crow

who perches between
his trumpet-lily ears like bad language he’s not
meant to hear. His mother

Anu, the jennet with
soft hooves from Killaloe, is healthy and never
far from Loki or Odin.

The perimeter fence,
the ID chips like cysts with a function slipped
under the skin, the trompe

l’oeil plough and furrowed
field, the UNHCR feed bag and restricted visiting
hours. These things done

for stateless donkeys,
mules and hinnies – done in love, in lieu of claims
to purpose or rights –

are done with your
generous help. In your names. Enjoy the photo.
Have a safe winter

outside the enclosure.

Ken Babstock
In Methodist Hatchet, published by House of Anansi Press 2011

Sandra Pady, Founder

The DONKEY DRABBLE book is here!

With much pride The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada announces the publication of DONKEY DRABBLES, our new collection of 100-word prose pieces in praise of donkeys and mules.  

DSC donors, volunteers and staff share their literary talents in these essays through personal reminiscences about the animals. With sympathy and delight the authors describe their sometimes surprising yet always satisfying interactions. Each essay is a complete story unto itself, illustrating the axiom that there is much to be said through the expression of more with less. 

Early reviews of the book have been filled with praise. “Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.”, “What a delight!”, “I laughed, I sighed.”

75 pages. Each drabble accompanied by a corresponding photograph. Unique 3 grommet binding. $21.99 – a perfect gift. Available for purchase at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada’s Long Ears Boutique, in person, or via the Long Ears online store.

Sandra Pady, Founder

IN THEIR HOOVES – Tourists Are Called On To Help

The first time that I remember seeing, really seeing, a working donkey was during a trip to Egypt. We were in the center of Cairo, riding in a car, along with many thousand other cars, moving on those hot, dry, dusty streets. Right in the middle of all of that traffic, a donkey was walking at the side of the road, laden with so many hundred pieces of wood that it was difficult to see his head or his torso. As we rolled past, I stared at his sagging body while the image burned itself into my mind. And I have never forgotten.

Looking back from today, I can appreciate the radical importance for me of the sight of that working animal.   The colossal effort he was making could not be overstated; asking a donkey or mule to carry such weight was just, plain wrong. In the years since, I have witnessed many other donkeys, straining under loads, loads which were too often heavy human beings, people on holiday, visiting the sites and apparently oblivious of their weight pushing down on the animals’ backs. On occasion I would comment out loud and address the donkeys’ owners but I was too often ignored, dismissed as being an emotional woman.

With all of that in mind, in recent years I have become aware of other voices calling for change; more and more people expressing distaste for the animals’ abuse. Now, in recent months a major step has been taken, initiated earlier this year by The Donkey Sanctuary headquartered in Sidmouth, England. That organization has launched a hard-hitting, responsible tourism campaign called “IN THEIR HOOVES”, which encourages tourists who may not always be aware, to take a step back and think how they might feel working in the same conditions as the donkeys and mules they come across in their travels.

The initial focus of this campaign has been Santorini, Greece, where 200+ steps are required to be climbed in order to visit a renowned monastery. All day long, in the blazing sunshine, donkeys carry tourists up and down those stairs. The Donkey Sanctuary has joined forces with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry’s trade association. The animated film in this link is being shown to passengers on CLIA member cruises before they disembark on the island: 

Guided by the 5 questions below, passengers are urged to look out for signs of stress and if they are seen, to report the situation at the nearest police station or municipal office.

  1. WATER – Is fresh water accessible?
  2. SHELTER -Is there shelter for rest periods away from the sun?
  3. OWNER BEHAVIOUR – Is the animal being mistreated?
  4. WOUNDS – Are there open wounds or signs of injury?
  5. WEIGHT – Are the animals being asked to carry an acceptable weight?

All those times that I complained about the over-worked animals, I never reported my concerns; I didn’t think it would do any good.  Now, however,  things are different and campaigns like “In Their Hooves” inform me that my single voice, directed to appropriate authorities, will join those of other people and help to protect the donkeys and mules we see on our travels.

Sandra Pady, Founder

With Gratitude to Jack

Jack with Marci

Recently, as some of you are aware, twenty-seven year old Katy, a Miniature donkey, died peacefully at the Sanctuary Farm.  When that happened, I was reminded of Jack Hallam, Katy’s former caregiver,  whose concern for her welfare, and for that of her three companions, prompted him to arrange to have them transported to us in 2001 from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

Jack, a lifelong bachelor, cared for many, many animals over the years.  The several acres that he owned on Salt Spring were set up for his dogs, cats, rabbits and donkeys to enjoy.  They lived most agreeably all together and it was only the increasing limitations of encroaching old age which compelled Jack to part with his donkey friends by requesting their admission to the DSC.

It seems like yesterday that we began to monitor the donkeys’ progress from the moment that their trailer left Salt Spring.  The ferry ride to the mainland was on calm seas and then the three night road trip began.  For much of it, we were told that the four donkeys munched away, swaying with the trailer as the thousands of kilometers passed by. There were many telephone calls along the way.  On the early evening of the animals’ arrival at the DSC, Jack was here, too.  He had flown to Ontario and then made his way to the Sanctuary so that he could greet them.  We raised a cheer as Katy, Gemmi, Peter and Marci trotted down the ramp.

The Salt Spring 4

Over the years until his death in 2016, we had many opportunities to enjoy Jack’s company.  He was a generous man who visited us often and who helped with the costs of the donkeys’ ongoing care.  Their future welfare was important to him and so he made sure to inform us that a bequest in his Will had long been made to the DSC.  Jack was always thinking ahead, aware that ‘the future’ can become ‘the present’ in the blink of an eye while ‘carrying on’ means just that.

We invite those of you who are reading this post, people who care about animals and their long-term welfare, to consider leaving a bequest to the DSC in your Wills, too.  Upon request, we would be glad to send along the DSC Guide to Legacy Giving which might assist you as you make up your mind:

Like Jack, everyone who notifies us that the Sanctuary is listed in their Will is welcomed into the DSC Green Fields Circle.  Such long term commitment means much – needed  help will be there in the future and we are grateful to be able to acknowledge this generosity in this way.

Although Katy is missed by many staff, volunteers and donors (Peter died in 2017),  Gemmy and Marci are still living at the DSC, roaming in the fields as I write.  At the same time we are confident that Jack Hallam’s spirit is here along with them, enjoying the peacefulness of their animal world.

Sandra Pady, Founder