Thieves have smashed donation boxes and stolen money from The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon.
Three of the charity’s stone donation boxes – topped with sculptures of donkeys’ heads by a local artist – were destroyed in the early hours of 3 January.
Staff estimate that more than £150 was taken from the boxes in the sanctuary’s grounds, which had not been emptied because of the bank holiday weekend.
Paul Svendsen, who is director of care and welfare at the charity, told H&H: “It is a horrible start to the new year. We are open to the public for free and people have easy access.
“The donation boxes are there so that people can see the work that we do and give if they think it is worthwhile.”
The sanctuary believes the cost of replacing the boxes will be significantly more than the money that was taken.
Communications manager Dawn Vincent, whose grandmother founded the charity, said: “It’s awful, the damage which has been done to the donation boxes may be irreplaceable.
“The worst thing is that it is not our money that has been taken it belonged to the donkeys.”
The sanctuary, which has more than 200,000 visitors a year, relies entirely on donations in order to operate.