Sixteen donkeys who were recently left in a field with no food or water are just one example of large groups of the animals being abandoned, according to the Donkey Sanctuary.

The charity was contacted by Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Mayo to ask for assistance with the case, which involved a herd of male donkeys aged between two and 20 years old.

The animals had very poor body condition and one of the group had already died by the time rescuers arrived.  The surviving donkeys were seized by the department and placed into the care of the sanctuary at its base in Mallow, County Cork.

David Walsh, the charity’s welfare advisor, described how the donkeys had been forced to drink from puddles and were trying to eat tree branches because they were so hungry.

“To see these lovely animals huddled together in misery with a dead donkey in plain sight is horrific,” he said.

The majority of the donkeys had very long hooves, making walking difficult and painful, and two have now been confirmed as suffering with laminitis. Most of the group are severely underweight and had matted and filthy coats.

A representative of the sanctuary said the donkeys were settling in their isolation unit at Hannigans Farm where they were receiving treatment.

“They are eating well and all have been seen by the farrier,” she said. “For the first few weeks after donkeys arrive in to us, we let them settle in as best as possible being conscious of the fact that they are in a new home, have travelled far and we want them to trust staff and settle well.

“Each donkey will have been assessed by the veterinary team and checked for parasites and lice. The donkeys seem to be familiar with being handled and we are hopeful that when they are back to good body condition that they can enter our rehoming scheme.”

The spokesman also confirmed that this was not an isolated case.

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“Unfortunately we do still see some cases of large groups of donkeys being abandoned. We have previously taken in some other large groups and we could see a couple of similar cases in a year,” she added.

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