Valuable pet

November 28, 2016

Jess Smeaton from Donkey Shelter Tongala is inviting everyone to come and hug some donkeys at the shelter's Open Day on Saturday.

Their name may have a few negative connotations, but did you know donkeys are valuable animals to have on the farm?

Tongala Donkey Shelter volunteer Jess Smeaton said donkeys were not only cuddly pets, but also practical for landowners.

‘‘Donkeys make great pets, but they’re also great workers. They do anything a horse can,’’ Ms Smeaton said.

‘‘They are good at pulling carts, good for stock protection and they are lovely companions, but they will work if you want them to.’’

The not-for-profit shelter rescues and provides a home for abandoned, injured and surrendered donkeys and will host its second annual open day on Sunday at its Tongala farm — home to about 200 donkeys.

Established almost 20 years ago by May Dodd, the shelter has rescued and provided new homes to hundreds of donkeys.

Ms Smeaton said the shelter not only adopted injured or unhealthy donkeys, but also healthy ones who had nowhere to go.

‘‘We get donkeys from all over the country, but lately a lot have come from the Echuca saleyard,’’ she said.

‘‘Some people just move into new properties and donkeys have been left behind... so some (donkeys) come here to retire.’’

One recent lot of donkeys from Echuca contained a few wild ones from the Northern Territory.

‘‘They just take a little longer to quieten down and lots were pregnant because they were in mixed groups,’’ Ms Smeaton said.

Initially established in Diamond Creek, the Donkey Shelter was run on 4ha, but it has expanded to its 123ha home in Tongala, leaving the donkeys with much more room to roam.

Ms Smeaton and founder Dr Dodd run the shelter together and rely on the money from public donations and donkey sponsorship to care for the animals.

‘‘In the last couple years, we’ve also had some bequests, ’’ Ms Smeaton said.

The Donkey Shelter is the only specialist donkey rescue in Victoria and one of only a few in Australia.

Tongala Donkey Shelter’s open day will be on Sunday from 11am to 3pm at 1949 Matheson Rd, Tongala. Entry is $20 per car.

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