Donkey Sanctuary celebrates 40th birthday with campaign launch

PUBLISHED: 14:38 06 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:41 18 June 2010

IT HAD taken a while to perfect the bran and carrot cake, topped with a 40, made out of Polos, but it took just minutes for five senior citizens from Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary to demolish it.

IT HAD taken a while to perfect the bran and carrot cake, topped with a 40, made out of Polos, but it took just minutes for five senior citizens from Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary to demolish it.

Wearing special rosettes, Jenny, a stately 35-year-old, Jubilee, 32, Jack, 31, Freddie, 29 and Susie, 27, they tucked into the celebratory cake, marking the sanctuary's 40th birthday on Friday, while its founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, MBE, chose the day to launch its Sanctuary from Suffering campaign.

Dr S, as she is affectionately known, her chief executive David Cook and Stephen Blakeway, director of international operations, gave short presentations to invited guests, who included Councillor Paul Diviani, chairman of East Devon District Council, its chief executive Mark Williams, councillors and friends of the sanctuary.

The woman who had always wanted a donkey, and ended up inheriting 204, could never have known that 40 years on she would head a charity caring for 13,000 animals and employing 500 staff around the world.

"I wouldn't change anything I have done in being able to fulfil a dream to make sure every donkey in the UK was looked after," she said.

"Help a donkey and you help the poorest people in the land. It has been a wonderful 40 years to see my dreams come true."

Mr Blakeway spoke of the "relentless, miserable grind" suffered by donkeys, and of the work the sanctuary did in five major countries, including India, Mexico and Egypt.

In all the charity helps donkeys in 18 countries and gives 300,000 treatments a year.

Mr Cook said people knew of the "sanctuary on top of the hill" but needed to know more about what it did, particularly its work abroad.

"There are still 60 million donkeys out there and we only get to a fraction of them. If over the next 40 years we can aim to get to as many as we can to improve their lives, we, by doing that, improve the lives of people that own them as well," he said.

Guests were shown around the sanctuary by Dean Hancock, visitor centre manager, before David Cook raised a new flag to mark its 40th anniversary and campaign.

Dr Svendsen unveiled a special plaque before leading staff, guests and donkeys Jack Flash and Springtime for a group photograph, followed by a cream tea.


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