South West Donkey Sanctuary site closure confirmed

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A South West Donkey Sanctuary is set for closure due to financial strain, much to the dismay of campaigners who battled to save it. Officials at the Devon-based charity announced that after a consultation, they will proceed to close the Ivybridge centre, despite the efforts of over 4,500 petition signatories pleading for its preservation.

Otherr Donkey Assisted Activity Centres situated in Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds are also due to be closed down. Meanwhile, the Belfast outlet is set for a downgrade into a modest sanctuary and rehoming centre.The primary site in Sidmouth remains unaffected and continues to function normally.

In light of these changes, redundancy consultations have been underway for 57 employees, with 11 of those based at the Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary located within Filham Park. The Ivybridge centre currently houses 21 donkeys but it is not known what will happen to them

Volunteers affiliated with the Ivybridge centre expressed their dismay at the treatment of staff, saying it was "appalling" and voiced concerns over the future welfare of the donkeys. Plymouth local and campaigner, Dawn Blatchford, who heavily advocated for the sanctuarys survival stated: "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 supporters sparked off a petition on Change.org calling for the shelter to remain operative. The plea, gathering 4,511 signatures so far, stated: "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."

In May, chiefs at the Donkey Sanctuary initiated consultations over the possibility of shutting four premises. A spokesperson for the Donkey Sanctuary mentioned 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 Devon in 1969 and achieving charitable status 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. In the UK and Ireland alone, it has provided sanctuary to over 14,500 donkeys.

Following the announcement of consultations in May, campaigners from Ivybridge expressed their "disgust" upon discovering that some of the charity's executives received salaries as high as £130,000 annually. A group of eight volunteers at the sanctuary reached out to prominent politicians and initiated a petition to safeguard the facility against closure.

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

In 2022, the charity reported an income of £57.395m, with donations and legacies contributing £51.65m. The charity spent £35.95m on its charitable activities, while setting aside £7.66m for future use.