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Grant for Shuswap donkey refuge will help reduce cost of veterinary visits

Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge looking to adapt to extreme weather, better manage waste
Donkeys under a snowy sunset at Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge Society. (Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge Society/ Facebook)

Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge Society received grant money that will allow them to purchase important vet equipment to treat donkeys in its care.

The refuge society was given a $1,000 grant by the B.C. Interior Community Foundation. The money will go towards a variable speed centrifuge machine, which spins blood and waste samples to separate them and identify parasites. This was a necessary piece of equipment for the society to build out their on-site veterinary care space.

“This allows us to enhance our care, we can do it faster and better in-house,” said Shirley Mainprize, who owns the refuge along with her husband Rob Miller.

The society has been working with Dr. Jay Thurgood out of Shuswap Veterinary Clinic. Thurgood has been helping set up the vet care facility and training staff to perform minor medical care, with the hope health issues will be noticed and treated faster, with less need for expensive transport to clinics in Salmon Arm or Kamloops.

READ MORE: Donkey rescue in Shuswap looks to raise funds for expansion

The first surgery at the refuge was performed in the spring of this year, with a vet removing a cyst from a donkey’s jaw after fully sedating the animal. The donkey ended up scratching its stitches out and needed to be under supervised vet care for a month rather than a week as it originally would have needed from the surgery. The refuge’s infirmary allowed for the specialized care and it can also accommodate dental work and x-rays, Mainprize said.

The refuge takes in mainly older donkeys over age 25, and it has more than 100 donkeys in care right now. Donkeys can live to about 50 years old and as they age they often deal with arthritis, cataracts and dental and weight loss problems that require special diets.

“Younger, healthy donkeys can be rehomed,” said Mainprize. “We take care of the older ones, the ones that, once their owners start to get old and have to sell their farms, have nowhere to go.”

Mainprize said how grateful she and Miller are for the generosity of the community, and how the steady upgrades to the refuge over their past 23 years of ownership have meant they can rescue more donkeys in need. She remembered the early days, caring for only four donkeys, when they had drafty barns to take care of sick donkeys in and no heated infirmary, warm water troughs or recovery room.

Since winter started this year, the refuge has seen donkeys in and out of the infirmary every day as they have a hard time handling the cold. Once a donkey gets too cold and starts shivering, they need hot food, warm water and layers of heat to recover or else they can develop colic and get abdominal cramps, stop drinking water and quickly die. The heated spaces for the donkeys to rest in comfort are vital.

“To have winter set in early like this, when donkeys are originally from Africa and not meant to be living in this kind of cold, has been extremely challenging,” said Mainprize.

A new barn scheduled to be built next year will give the refuge a home to keep the most senior donkeys together, and they have secured funding for heated water troughs.

Looking forward, Mainprize is focusing on environmental impacts and said they will need help with electrical work and insulation in the ceiling to combat next year’s winter weather and summer heat.

“We want to deal with the effects of climate change now, to get ahead of next year’s problems to better prepare and mitigate,” said Mainprize.

She also said she wants to better manage the waste that comes out of the barn to align with the Shuswap watershed quality initiatives.

READ MORE: Shuswap’s Salmar Community Association celebrates news of $100,000 grant

Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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