Donkeys have been saved from death in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda in the Caribbean after being called in for assistance by the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society.

The island was evacuated due to the storm, leaving pets and animals to fend for themselves.

Barbuda’s feral donkey population had strayed onto the airport runway. As well as endangering themselves, they were at risk of hindering the rebuilding efforts of the local community.

“An inspection of the airport fence confirmed what we had guessed – not an inch of it was standing, having been comprehensively flattened by the storm,” said Simon Pope, rapid response and campaigns manager at the Donkey Sanctuary.

“It meant that donkeys for miles around had been able to wander in and adopt the airport as their own private playground and restaurant.”

Until the Donkey Sanctuary arrived, local firemen had been using their cars to scare the donkeys to the edges of the runway to allow planes to land or take off. Other islanders suggested shooting the donkeys as a solution.

Working with the fire service and aviation authorities, the team has proposed a number of alternative measures to clear the runway without the donkeys being killed or injured.

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The charity proposed short- and longer-term fencing solutions to prevent the donkeys straying again.

“We assessed the donkeys, who were thankfully in good condition following the hurricane,” added a Donkey Sanctuary spokesman.

“Our advice is now being followed, allowing the rebuilding to begin.”

The team also spoke to the minister for health and environment about the donkeys and their welfare requirements.

They also came to the aid of dogs and other animals requiring treatment, whose needs “couldn’t be ignored”.

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