How did you come to be working as a senior veterinary surgeon at The Donkey Sanctuary?
I started developing links with The Donkey Sanctuary while working as a lecturer in South Africa. A new position then became available to lead the clinical services at the charity.
Why did you want to specialise in donkeys?
I have worked in equine practice for my entire career, but have always enjoyed working with donkeys. It was a humbling experience to see how important donkeys are in supporting some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities across the world.
Why did you want to work at the sanctuary – was it a lifelong ambition?
I have been following the work of The Donkey Sanctuary for a number of years, and have always been impressed with the clinical work the team performs and the research output generated.
Working with donkeys is rather niche – how did your training prepare you for this, or are you constantly learning on the job?
I was certainly on a steep learning curve when I started work at The Donkey Sanctuary, and it is fascinating modifying and then applying general equine protocols and procedures to the donkey population here.
Tell us about your day – is there such a thing as a “typical” one?
I have a truly fascinating job with tremendous variety. I can be evaluating a lameness case one minute, interviewing a new member of staff the next, and then talking to a colleague about a challenging case in a different country after that.
What are the best aspects of your job?
Undoubtedly, the variety of cases we see, and having the potential to really make a difference and help donkeys across the globe.
I also have a fantastic team and excellent managers, which makes all the difference.
And the worst?
I don’t have quite enough time to do everything I would like to.
What has been the highlight so far?
I have lectured at The Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, taught vets looking after the working mules in Santorini and, in the next few months, I am due to visit the charity’s two sanctuaries in Spain.
Most memorable case?
My team and I recently removed an abscess the size of a melon from a donkey. The donkey is recovering really well.
Most memorable donkey?
I treated a donkey called Harvey with arthritis of both hocks. I medicated his hocks, changed his foot balance and he never looked back.
How does it feel to be with the charity in this, its 50th year?
It is a very special year for The Donkey Sanctuary. This milestone is an opportunity to both look back on the charity’s landmark achievements and take stock of the massive challenges in a world where the suffering of animals remains abhorrent.
I was fortunate to meet our founder, Elizabeth Svendsen, at a graduation ceremony in Edinburgh, and was really moved by her truly amazing story.
To think Dr Svendsen’s vision started with one rescued donkey, and has developed into an international animal welfare organisation transforming the lives of millions of donkeys and mules – and the people who depend on them for a living – is really inspirational.
Do you think more needs to be done to teach vet students about donkey medicine at university/the profession via CPD?
I would definitely agree that more CPD and teaching for undergraduates would be an excellent idea.
Donkeys have such specific pathology and behavioural issues that specific undergraduate teaching in all universities would be of great benefit. The veterinary team has contacts with all the vet schools in the UK and is engaging with all final-year students to improve donkey knowledge.