Provided Free-of-Cost ByTHE PEACEFUL VALLEY DONKEY RESCUE
Congratulations on the addition of a donkey into your family! Your donkey is an incredibly intelligent and
compassionate creature and is sure to add a great deal of pleasure to your life.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue has written this manual to offer solutions and answers to the most
common problems and questions we receive. This manual’s goal is threefold:
1-To provide a simple introduction to donkeys
2-To help you befriend your donkey
3-To help you care for your donkey.
Whether you have a wild burro or domestic donkey, this information is essential to creating a healthy,
rewarding, and long-lasting friendship.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is located in the High Desert area of Southern California and the
treatments listed here are designed for this environment. Every geographic region has its own unique
hazards. Please contact your local veterinarian to help you develop an individualized treatment schedule
for your specific area.
Alfalfa: Hay that should never be fed to donkeys, never-never-never!
African Ass: An endangered species and the root-stock for the burros of the New World
Burro: The Spanish word for Ass; usually referring to wild animals
Castrate: The removal of the testicles; also called Gelding
Donkey: The English word for Ass; usually referring to domestic animals
Founder: The deterioration of the bone within the hoof; usually caused by an improper diet of alfalfa
and oats; extremely painful
Grass Hay: Hay that is the closest match to a donkey's natural diet; comes in many forms, including
Bermuda, Timothy, Orchard and Bromegrass
Hinny: The hybrid offspring of a male horse and female donkey; usually more horse like
Jack: A male donkey
Jennet: A female donkey; also referred to as Jenny
John: A male mule
Laminitis: The deterioration of the lamina, or lining between the hoof and the bone within the hoof
wall; usually caused by improper diet or abnormal stress to the body
Mammoth: Donkeys that stand 54" or more at the withers
Miniature: Donkey that stand 36" or less at the withers
Molly: A female mule
Mule: The hybrid offspring of a male donkey and female horse; can be bred from miniature to
Internal Parasite: Internal worms that cause serious health problems; controlled with a worming regiment
given every 3 months
Standard: Donkeys measuring between 36" and 54"
Sully: The term used to describe a donkey that will "shut down" to avoid the pain associated with
The American donkey is a direct descendant of the African Wild Ass, which was first domesticated in
North Africa. Spaniards brought them to the Americas in the 1600s. Donkeys played a crucial role in the
construction of roadways, railways, and missions that made the American West accessible. They also
were the unsung heroes of early American mining efforts. Today’s wild burros are the ancestors of
domestic donkeys that were released after their services were no longer required.
George Washington was the first to own Mammoth Donkeys in the United States. The King of Spain gave
him a “Royal Gift” and General Lafayette of France gave him “Mammoth.” Both were used to create draft
mules for farm work.
Donkeys originated in the African deserts and are a descendant of the African Wild Ass. The African Wild
Ass is one of the most endangered animals in the world, with some of its sub-species now extinct.
Donkeys can tolerate water loss up to 30% of their body weight; they can replenish it in only 15 minutes of
Jennies are pregnant for one full year and normally have one foal. Twins are extremely rare.
Thousands of wild burros thrive in the deserts of our American Southwest as a result of our Western
migration. These animals are round up and placed for adoption as they are seen as a threat to the habitat
of the Big Horn Sheep.
Donkeys are more affectionate than horses and enjoy the companionship of people. The prospectors of
old did not lead their donkeys; the donkeys simply followed behind or even led the way.
American donkeys can live to 40 years of age. Donkeys in third world countries seldom live over 10 years
due to unchecked parasites.
Because the coyote is the only natural threat to donkeys, they do not like any canine. Donkeys are used all
over the world to protect goats and sheep against coyote attack. They also protect cows while calving.
A donkey can easily carry 30% of its body weight in live load and 20% in dead weight.
Castration of Male Donkeys
All male donkeys should be castrated regardless of age. There is no justifiable reason to breed
standard donkeys as we are faced with an almost insurmountable problem of overpopulation. Gelded
male donkeys are less dangerous, make better companions, and enjoy a less stressful life.
Donkeys cannot be gelded using the same techniques that a veterinarian would use to geld a
horse. The blood vessels are much too large to be crimped or emasculated and often times the donkeys
will bleed to death as a result. Make sure that your veterinarian is aware of this problem and that he will
ligate the blood vessels before removing the emasculator.
Dr. John Roueche, Chief Veterinarian for the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, has performed
over 100 gelding procedures at the rescue without complication. Our castration patients have ranged in
age from 4 months to over 35 years old.
We offer a free article written by Dr. John Roueche on the proper castration procedure. This
article, along with the photo accompaniment, is available by mail or online at www.donkeyrescue.org.
Internal parasites are the #1 killer of donkeys worldwide. Donkeys have the highest potential of
harboring the destructive equine lungworm. PLEASE PUT YOUR DONKEY ON A PARASITE CONTROL
PROGRAM. ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN FOR THE APPROPRIATE PROGRAM FOR YOUR DONKEY.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue uses the following worming program on all of our donkeys.
This is based on our type of feed, weather conditions, and environment. Please check with your local
veterinarian to ensure that our method will work in your area.
Our donkeys are paste wormed every three months beginning January 1. Most donkeys weigh an
average of 500 pounds; therefore, 1 tube can be split evenly between 2 adult donkeys. Babies should be
wormed starting at 6 months of age and placed on an every three-month schedule. It is easier to take a
small amount (less than 100 pounds on the adjustment scale) on your finger to place in their mouth.
An Ivermectrin based wormer must be used twice per year. Many brands offer an Ivermectrin
product such as Ivercare or Zimmectrin. Ivermectrin is the recommended product to kill lungworms that
are common in donkeys.
The paste syringe should be inserted through the inter-dental area of the mouth (the area
between the front and back teeth). Push the syringe in until the tip is at the back of the tongue. Push the
plunger until it hits the weight adjustment ring. It is that easy! Wormers generally cost between $10 to
Wormers should be rotated each time to prevent parasites from developing immunities. Many
brands offer 2 different formulas for this purpose.
Many people feel that using a strong wormer on an animal with a large infestation is dangerous as
other problems can be caused by the massive sudden die off the internal parasites. For this reason, we
recommend starting with a 250 pound dose of Strongid followed by a second 250 pound dose 2 weeks
later. Once this has been completed, you can begin the following cycle.
Jan 1 Strongid Paste by Pfizer
Apr 1 Ivermectrin based wormer (Zimmectrin, Ivercare, etc.)
Jul 1 Anthelcide Paste by Pfizer
Oct 1 Ivermectrin based
*PVDR uses Pfizer products whenever possible because of their generosity
PVDR vaccinates all of our donkeys with Fluvac® Innovator Triple-E® FT by Fort Dodge. This is known
as a 4 way + VEE. This vaccine aids in the prevention of Equine Encephalomyelitis due to Eastern,
Western and Venezuelan viruses; Equine Influenza due to types A1 and A2; as well as Tetanus.
This vaccine is administered upon arrival at the rescue and a booster is given 3 weeks after the
first. Vaccinations using the same product are given annually thereafter. Consult your veterinarian for the
proper vaccine and regiment for your area. We do not vaccinate any donkeys over the age of 40. We feel
that by reaching this age, the donkeys have been exposed to most viruses and have built their own
Vaccines can be administered by the donkey owner with little stress on either party’s part. The
recommended vaccine comes complete with a pre-filled syringe and a needle. Remove the rubber
stopper from the top of the syringe; remove the plastic cap from the bottom of the needle base; push
needle and syringe together. The needle should be inserted into a muscular area with good circulation.
We at PVDR prefer to vaccinate in the lower neck region. Insert the needle at a slight angle, draw the
syringe back to ensure that a vein or artery has not been punctured, and slowly depress the plunger until
all of the liquid is dispelled.
We strongly suggest that everyone vaccinate their equine against West Nile Virus.
The injection procedure is less stressful if administered by you, the donkey’s friend, than by a
stranger. However, if you are not comfortable giving an intra-muscular injection, ask a professional for
Prepackaged vaccination and syringe
10 dose vial for larger herds
FEEDING and TREATS
Donkeys must be kept on a low-protein diet in order to ensure good body weight, and healthy
hooves / joints. Spoiling donkeys with alfalfa and oats will ultimately lead to much hardship for you and
your donkey. Rich diets are the leading cause of obesity in donkeys. Fat deposits on the sides, rump and
neck are unhealthy. High protein levels also lead to the deterioration of the bones within the hooves,
which cause the donkey’s weight to bear down on the sole of the hoof. This may lead to lameness and
the inability to stand due to extreme pain.
Grass Hay comes in many forms including Bermuda, Timothy, Orchard and Bromegrass. All
grass hay has a lower protein level than alfalfa and other legume hays. As a desert animal, the donkey’s
metabolism cannot handle the high protein and result in health problems. Donkeys should be fed 1% to
1½% of their body weight each day, divided between 2-3 feedings. This will equal approximately 5 pounds
of hay per donkey each day.
Cool, clean water is very important for a donkey’s digestive tract. Make sure you check the water
supply each day and protect it from freezing in the winter months.
Treats should be given moderately. Carrots, cut into 3" pieces, work nicely as they are easy to
chew, nutritious, and have natural de-worming properties. Treats should only be given by hand and never
included in the daily feed routine. Do not make a habit of bringing treats each time you come out to spend
time with your donkey. You need to build a relationship of trust and love, not one where treats are
Protein levels in hay/feed. It is important to keep protein below 5%
In the wild, burro’s hooves are trimmed naturally by the harsh environment and constant
movement. In captivity, conditions are radically different and hoof care is extremely important. Many
people have a fear of a donkey’s hooves. They are worried about being kicked and severely injured. The
donkey is afraid of having his hooves touched because it is his only form of protection.
Once you have befriended your donkey, hoof work is the next step. Begin by rubbing the donkey
all over his body. Slowly run your hand down each leg just a little and then back up to his “safe” point.
Keep progressing, slowly rubbing lower and lower each time. If the donkey runs or becomes agitated,
simply go back to rubbing the donkey where he feels conformable. After he will let you rub each leg all the
way down to the hoof, gently squeeze the tendons behind each leg above the hoof. This will signal to the
donkey to raise his leg. When you take the hoof, quickly release it and praise him for his cooperation.
Always release the hoof immediately in the early stages. The donkey needs to know that you will always
give the hoof back whenever you take it. With patience and practice, your donkey will allow all 4 hooves to
be picked up safely.
A hoof pick is a great tool to start working on your donkey’s hooves. Available at all tack stores,
the hoof pick is used to clean dirt and manure out of your donkey’s hooves. Once your donkey has
progressed to the stage of allowing his hooves to be picked up, use the hoof pick to clean out the
underside of each hoof. Daily cleaning is recommended for health and training purposes.
Regular picking will help reduce the risk of thrush, a bacteria that thrives in non-oxygenated areas.
Hooves that are packed with mud and or manure make an excellent breeding ground for this bacteria.
Thrush will eat away at the frog and sole of the foot, and your farrier may need to cut out thrushy areas.
Hoof trimming is usually better left to a professional farrier. Call local farriers to ensure they will
work on donkeys and that they will not use painful devices. You do not want your donkey to associate
hoof work with pain. It is better to have a veterinarian sedate the donkey to work on the hooves than it is
to hurt the donkey and ruin your relationship.
Regular hoof care ensures that your donkey’s feet do not get too long. In the wild, donkeys weardown
their hooves by traveling long distances looking for grazing areas and water. Domestic donkeys,
however, are usually kept in smaller, softer corrals, thus not allowing them to wear down their hooves like
their wild relatives.
Routine farrier care is also important to make sure the donkey is wearing their feet properly and
keeping the proper hoof angle. Your farrier can make sure that your donkey’s feet are balanced, meaning
there is not too much growth on the outside wall or inside wall, and not too much toe or heel growth. If a
donkey’s feet remain unbalanced for too long, lameness and permanent leg damage may occur.
A normal trimming schedule is anywhere from 8-12 weeks, but will depend on the rate of hoof
growth for your individual donkey. Discuss this with your farrier to see how often they feel your donkey’s
feet will need trimming.
It is important that you work with your donkey’s feet as often as possible. This will make hoof work
less stressful for your farrier and your donkey. In the end, it is your responsibility to provide for your
donkey’s well being. By ensuring that hoof work can be done easily and safely, you are doing your donkey
and yourself an invaluable favor.
Feel free to contact the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue for information on how to trim your
donkey’s hooves the right way.
A well trimmed donkey hoof. The broken remains of a neglected hoof
All donkeys require space to exercise. Younger donkeys like to run while older donkeys like to
explore. Whatever your situation, make sure that your donkeys have at least a 50’ x 100’ area for
The second requirement is a pen. A donkey being penned for long periods should have a
minimum space of 24’x24’. This should be constructed of an unbreakable material, at least 5’ in height.
Four-rail pipe corral panels are ideal, but other materials will work just as well. Ensure that your donkey
has a shader, a windbreak, and an adequate supply of water. Even if you plan on letting your donkey
remain at pasture most of the time, it is recommended that you have a pen enclosure where your donkey
can feel safe and you can administer treatments and medicines when required.
It is advisable to build a capture chute, which allows for worming, vaccinating, and hoof trimming
in a safe, low stress environment. Details on the PVDR chute are available online at
2 facing gate panels 24” apart
4-rail pipe corral panels with shader
Whether you have just adopted a wild burro or are working with an abused donkey, the gentling
process is absolutely necessary in order to have a strong healthy relationship with your donkey. Donkeys
have a very different perspective than do people. In order to effectively work with a donkey, you must first
understand the way a donkey thinks:
Donkeys have few enemies and have developed a fight mechanism when they feel that they are
in danger. While a horse will run blindly when scared, a donkey will only retreat a safe distance and plan
its next move. If provoked and left no other choice, a donkey will attack.
Donkeys have a well-defined sense of self-preservation. They are always looking out for their
own safety. If a donkey is not comfortable with a situation, he will stop or turn away. This is not
stubbornness; this is the donkey looking after its own interest. Understanding this trait is paramount to
developing a trusting relationship.
Donkeys usually kick when they feel threatened. A donkey can kick with any leg from any angle
with perfect accuracy. The old adage about never standing behind a donkey carries little weight. A
donkey will usually give you many opportunities to avoid being kicked. These include running away,
swishing its tail, and making small hops on both back legs. Any of these are a clear indicator that the
donkey is not comfortable or feels threatened. New mothers are extremely protective of their young.
Extreme care must be taken to ensure the safety of you, the mother and the baby.
A donkey that is unfamiliar with humans, or one that has been mistreated by them, views people
as vertical creatures. Animals, for the most part, are horizontal. This is a major distinction to a donkey
and explains why they are more comfortable with horses, cows, and even some dogs than they are with
you. Because donkeys use their limbs to strike, a person who is reaching out to pet a donkey will appear
to be attacking rather than comforting.
Donkeys communicate using their heads. Smelling, licking and grooming are all done with the
head. This is less threatening and appears more natural to the donkey.
The first step to gentling is to gather all of the patience you can muster and go out and sit in the
pen with your donkey. A lawn chair and a good book will do more to build the relationship than anything
else. The donkey has to become comfortable with your presence. You must appear non-threatening and
even a little non-interested. It is a good idea to leave enough room behind your chair so that the donkey
can walk all of the way around you and even approach you from behind. The donkey determines each
step of training. You cannot advance unless he is ready. Some donkeys require days while others require
weeks. A donkey has a life expectancy of 40 years; he has time to wait. You must have the patience.
Once the donkey is comfortable with your presence, offer carrots as a treat. If he will not
approach you to take them, simply throw them in his direction. Even if he does not eat them right away,
once the training session is over, he will eat them and learn that your presence can be rewarding.
Continue to offer treats each day until the donkey is comfortable enough to take them from your hand.
The next step is to offer the carrot while standing. Once the donkey recognizes the treat, he usually will
not mind the transition between sitting and standing. After a comfortable period, try to reach out and
scratch the donkey between the ears. As you progress, try to begin each session with a scratch instead of
the treat. Time and patience rule this process. We often undervalue these traits and the rewards they
sow. Consider this a time to welcome peace into your life, as well as the life of your new friend.
Once you have completed the gentling process, you can advance to the training process.
Remember: Donkeys are highly intelligent animals with a desire to please. The main barrier is
communication. Make sure you communicate your wishes in a language that he can understand.
The Donkeyman “communicating” with some wild babies
There are only 2 simple rules that apply to donkey training. Once you have mastered these rules,
your donkey will do anything you ask it to do.
Befriend your donkey. Until you are completely at ease with your donkey, your donkey will not be at ease
with you. If you are nervous, cautious, or just plain scared, your donkey will have no choice but to
reciprocate the same feelings. I begin most of my relationship building on the ground. I sit in their pen and
let them explore me. I do not reach out to touch them, but rather let them initiate the contact. A person on
the ground is much less intimidating than a person standing erect. You and your donkey should be best
friends. When I crossed Death Valley
on foot, I did it with my 4 best friends. I did not do it with 4 slaves that I expected to comply with my every
whim. When you deal with your friends, are you demanding, self centered and unwilling to listen to
reason? Then you should act no differently with your donkey. You can be a leader without being a tyrant.
Most donkey abuse stems from failed training. A donkey does not respond as a horse does. Feelings of
frustration can lead to striking a donkey. Sadly, this often leads to continued abuse. Love your donkey
unconditionally and without fear and your donkey will be more than happy to please you.
What you begin, you must finish. This is much harder than it sounds, but it is crucial in your donkey's
behavior. With all due respect, your donkey is as smart if not smarter than you are. He has little to no work
ethic, and he would rather not do most things that you want him to do. If you set out to halter your donkey
and he runs, you must continue until you have him haltered. If he is allowed to get away with running just
one time, he will have learned that running means no halter. If he pulls away on the lead rope when you
take him for a walk, he will know that he can escape you at will. When I set out to halter a donkey, I will
continue until the task is complete. If it takes 5 minutes or 5 hours, that donkey will be haltered before I am
done. When my donkeys see me coming with a halter, they will turn away and start to avoid me until they
hear me call their name. They then know that regardless of their actions, they will be haltered and that
running is pointless. Your perseverance will pay off.
Baby donkeys are cute, but they grow up!
With many people once the cuteness wears off, so does the attraction.
Meet The People Behind the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue
Amy Meyers, Founder
Mark Meyers, Executive Director
Mark and Amy Meyers never planned to start a donkey rescue. Their move to the country was
simply a way to avoid the congestion of city living. Their first donkey, a one-year-old named Izzy, was
purchased over the internet. Never having been around donkeys, the Meyers were mesmerized by this
loving, happy intelligent creature. She had a nature that was more like a dog than a horse. But, now
having a donkey, they became more aware of other donkeys they encountered. They suddenly noticed
donkeys everywhere—at feed stores, in hillside pastures, in small pens behind houses. Many of the
donkeys that the Meyers saw did not act like their beloved Izzy.
Amy bought a donkey from a feed store that she named Banjo. Banjo had a trail of green mucus
hanging from his nose. He was so aggressive that if you approached his pen he would lunge through the
bars and try to bite you. It took some time but eventually Banjo learned to love and trust and make a full
As Banjo became a loving part of the family, Amy found Martin and Lewis in a livestock auction.
They were both horrified of people and would shake so violently upon approach they would literally fall
over. They too came to live on the Meyers' ranch to learn that not all people are bad.
Donkey after donkey took up residence with the Meyers' until there were twenty-five pair of long
ears. At this point, the Meyers' decided to start a Donkey Rescue in order to find adoptive homes for their
charges. By adopting the
donkeys instead of selling them, the Meyers' felt that they could be more selective as to where their
donkeys ended up. As a result of the tough screening process used by PVDR, many donkeys have found
permanent loving homes.
While the Meyers first love is always the donkeys within their immediate care, they felt that the
problem of donkey neglect and abuse is far too widespread to just focus on a "hands on" approach. The
Meyers use the internet, speaking engagements, educational programs, and television appearances, as
well as this book to improve the plight of the American Donkey.
Mark and Amy have five children that are active in the work of the rescue.
Dr. John Roueche, DVM
Dr. John graduated from Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological
Sciences, in 1997. He began his practice as a veterinarian in Las Cruces, NM, from 1997 until 2001. Dr.
John then moved to Agua Dulce, CA, and began working with the Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic. Dr. John
now has his own veterinary practice where he continues to assist animals both large and small.
Dr. John has headed the Veterinary Department of the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue since his arrival in
California. Because of Dr. John's commitment to his work and his love of animals, his contributions to the
rescue have helped thousands of donkeys worldwide. Dr. John and his wife Stacey have four beautiful
Kevin Elliott, Farrier
Kevin began his career as a farrier in 1997. His formal training involved classroom work and
hands on experience as an apprentice with a journeyman farrier. He now has his own successful practice,
which, by choice, centers on backyard animals as opposed to show animals.
While Kevin admits that some donkeys can be more difficult to work on than most horses, he truly enjoys
working with them. Kevin feels that the unique personality of each donkey makes the effort even more
rewarding; especially since donkey hoof care is often neglected.
Kevin and his wife Mary-Sue have adopted two donkeys from the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. They
say that the donkeys have taught them a great deal about patience, love, and understanding as they
watch them interact with each other, their mule, and their horses.
The Staff of the
PEACEFUL VALLEY DONKEY RESCUE
is here to help.
You can email us email@example.com
You can call us at866-DONKS-31
You can write us at
Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue
PO Box 223
Acton, CA 93510
You can find us online atwww.donkeyrescue.org
We are always available to assist you and your donkey.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue
Providing a safe and loving environment
to abused, neglected, and unwanted donkeys.
Improving the Plight of Donkeys Worldwide
You may request additional information and articles via phone or email:
The Myths of Donkey Castration with pictures - by Dr. John Roueche, DVM
Trimming Donkey’s Hooves - by Kevin Elliott
The Plight of the American Donkey - by Mark S. Meyers
Why Do People Abuse Donkeys? - by Mark S. Meyers
PVDR Capture Chute Diagram
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is supported through private donations.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is a non-profit charity listed under
The Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3)
Federal Identification Number 77-0562800
Mark Meyers is available for speaking engagements on a variety of topics.
The Guide to Proper Care and Feeding of the American Donkey
was written by Mark S. Meyers
Article contributions and supervision by John Roueche, DVM and Kevin Elliott
Editing and 50 cent word insertions by Jesse Morris
All photos are property of the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue except
Rawhide’s picture by Jill FinebergSource: http://www.pvdr.org/docs/care_and_feeding.pdf Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue Home Page