A sad picture of neglect ...the donkey with twisted hooves
A DONKEY found abandoned in a field in Co Tyrone was so badly neglected that her legs could be left permanently damaged.
Vets are carrying out X-rays on Millie's legs to see if the bones have been affected by allowing her hooves to grow so long they became twisted up.
The Donkey Sanctuary, which rescued Millie after she was found abandoned in a field with a pony companion, said she has been left with twisted overgrown hooves and a coat matted with her own dung. The sanctuary said it is dealing with an epidemic of neglected donkeys in Ireland as numbers of abandonment cases here soar.
Four donkeys from Northern Ireland were taken in after they were abandoned in 2010, rising to 17 in 2011, 66 in 2012 and 63 last year.
Millie is the 144th donkey to be abandoned and rescued in Northern Ireland since the start of 2012.
"We are getting huge numbers from Ireland," spokesperson Sarah Collings said.
Millie is currently being cared for at a holding base in Strabane and will be moved to the main centre in Sidmouth if she is deemed well enough.
Welfare officer Marie McCormack said it was a shocking case.
"It just saddens me to see them. It's pure neglect." she said.
"The state of her coat is terrible. She's covered in her own faeces. She must not have had a clean stable and must have been lying in her own muck.
"Unfortunately, abandonment is a big problem in Northern Ireland. People drive the donkeys to remote locations and just let them out. It's not uncommon for farmers to find them on their land or for people to wake up with them in their front gardens."
"A donkey isn't the same as a horse – if their hooves aren't trimmed they can keep growing very quickly," Ms Collings added.
"If the hooves get twisted it can affect their posture, and if it is too serious they may have to be put down."