Donkeys left to suffer in barren area of Belfast find sanctuary
Meet Faith, Hope and Charity - the adorable donkeys given a new home for Christmas.
The three females have been taken into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary after they were found neglected and abandoned in north Belfast.
Their heartbreaking plight was brought to the attention of the charity by a concerned passerby, who was alarmed by the length and distortion of their hooves.
One donkey's hooves were so long that the animal was forced to lie on cold ground, barely able to move.
The donkeys had been abandoned on a barren area of land with no shelter of any kind. Alarmingly, there was also nothing to stop them from wandering on to a busy road.
The donkeys have now received attention from vets and been taken to a welfare yard managed by The Donkey Sanctuary.
Jane Bruce, who is a welfare adviser for the organisation, said: "This is a fairly regular occurrence. We get around six or seven calls like this every week.
"In this case, we collaborated with Belfast City Council, who have powers with regard to animal welfare, and once they were agreeable we took the animals into our care."
As well as the obvious physical effects, Jane said such neglect can have a dire psychological effect on animals.
"Of course it has a depressive effect. Their natural instinct is to move about and forage.
"Donkeys can graze for 16 hours a day, so it does place stress on them because they can't move to find shelter, but in this case there was no shelter for them anyway."
One of the animals, Faith, caused the charity particular concern because of the state of her health.
The donkey was having difficulty walking and was clearly in pain. A radiograph was carried out before remedial work to try to correct the damage to her hooves.
The two other animals, Hope and her daughter Charity, also had to have their hooves trimmed down.
Jane added: "This neglect can happen for a few reasons.
"Sometimes people just don't have the time to look after donkeys or they run out of feed during the winter. But The Donkey Sanctuary is here to support owners out there if they find themselves in a position where they need our help.
"We can even commit to a level of financial support and provide services if they are required."
Once donkeys are returned to better health, the sanctuary seeks to rehouse the animals in a suitable permanent home.
The organisation will also provide full support and management for any prospective owners.
"Most people don't realise how serious a commitment taking care of these animals actually is," Jane added.
"Donkeys can live for up to 30 years. We would of course like to keep all three of these animals together, because they are obviously used to each other's company."
Would-be owners will be scrutinised by The Donkey Sanctuary to ensure they have the time, resources and proper environment to house them.
Anyone with concerns about the conditions of donkeys, or who wants to make a donation towards The Donkey Sanctuary, can contact Jane on 07557922358 or the welfare department on 00353 2248398. Those are also the numbers to contact for advice or to enquire about offering a home to the donkeys.