Devon's Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary set to close despite public outcry

The Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary is set to shut its doors, much to the dismay of campaigners who have fought tirelessly to keep it open. The charity, based in Devon, has disclosed that following an assessment, they've made the decision to close the Ivybridge centre despite over 4,500 individuals signing a petition urging its survival.

In addition, other Donkey Assisted Activity Centres in key locations such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds are also facing closure, with another in Belfast being downsized to a small sanctuary and rehoming establishment. However, Sidmouth's primary site remains unaffected and will continue operations.

A total of 57 employees have been consulted about redundancy possibilities, 11 of whom are from the Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary located in Filham Park. Home to 21 donkeys, it's yet unclear whether the land will be put up for sale post-closure.

Volunteers at the Ivybridge centre voiced their frustrations regarding the treatment of staff, describing it as "appalling" whilst expressing concern for the wellbeing of the resident donkeys. In the words of campaigner Dawn Blatchford from Plymouth, who joined the fight to save the Ivybridge sanctuary: "To say we are all gutted is an understatement and the way everyone has been treated is appalling."

"We don't want the donkeys to suffer, people still need to support the donkeys and we have some amazing memories of being part of one big happy family at Ivybridge - the staff, volunteers and the donkeys, no one can take these away from us ever - but the sanctuary must know that they can't treat people like this.", reports Plymouth Live.

The campaigners have launched a petition on to Keep the Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary Open. The petition, which has garnered 4,511 signatures so far, states: "This sanctuary is an invaluable resource for our community, providing therapeutic benefits to many individuals who struggle with mental health issues. Losing it would be devastating not only to the animals but also to those who rely on its services."

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Officials at the Donkey Sanctuary initiated a consultation in May regarding the possible shutdown of four sites. A representative from The Donkey Sanctuary commented today: "We have now completed a collective consultation process which gave careful consideration to the changes we proposed in May. In light of this, we will shortly be closing operational activities at four of our centres and repurposing our Belfast centre."

"These changes were proposed in order to make best use of our donors' money and focus on our core mission to improve the lives of donkeys here in the UK and around the world. We will now assess each of our donkeys' individual requirements so we can start the process of moving them from the centres to their new homes. As the collective consultation has ended, we are now entering a process of individual consultation with staff from the centres affected."

The Donkey Sanctuary, established by Elisabeth Svendsen in 1969 in Devon and registered as a charity in 1973, has grown into one of the world's leading equine charities, boasting an annual income and expenditure of £37m.

Operating from its headquarters at Slade House Farm in Sidmouth, the charity coordinates international efforts to care for donkeys globally. To date, it has provided sanctuary to over 14,500 donkeys across the UK and Ireland.

When news of the consultations broke out in May, campaigners from Ivybridge expressed their "disgust" upon discovering that some of the charity's executives were receiving salaries as high as £130,000 annually. In response, a group of eight volunteers at the sanctuary reached out to prominent politicians and initiated a petition to safeguard the facility from potential closure.

The Donkey Sanctuary, one of the world's largest equine charities, has revealed in its accounts that 14 of its employees were paid more than £60,000 in 2022. Documents published with the Charity Commission showed that one executive earned between £120,000 and £130,000, another between £100,000 and £110,000, with three others receiving over £90,000 and four more earning above £80,000.

The accounts also disclosed that the charity had an income of £57.395m in 2022, with £51.65m coming from donations and legacies. The charity spent £35.95m on its charitable activities, but banked £7.66m for future use.