UK Donkey Rescue Urges Awareness of Foreign Disease Risk

The number of donkeys being rescued and imported from Europe into the UK is at an all-time high, according to the Devon-based Donkey Sanctuary. Any donkeys of unknown origin might potentially carry exotic diseases--posing a risk to the UK's domestic equine population.

The Donkey Sanctuary is concerned that there are currently no requirements for equines traveling from Europe to receive a health check or blood tests on arrival to the UK, although they are certified to come from holdings free from a number of diseases.

"There are always going to be disease risks involved when buying or rescuing a donkey when you do not know where it has originated from," said Alex Thiemann MRCVS, veterinary surgeon at the Sanctuary. "The diseases we check for are not normally expected to occur in the UK but do in Europe and thus pose a real risk. This appears to be of increasing relevance as donkeys may be imported from Europe and sold in the UK with very little in the way of health checks."

The Sanctuary, which is a registered charity providing refuge to thousands of donkeys, recognizes these risks and quarantines any donkey of unknown origin until blood tests have been taken. They check for equine piroplasmosis, equine infectious anemia, and equine viral arteritis before allowing the donkeys to mix with existing residents.

Anyone planning to buy or rescue donkeys from Europe, or who has recently done so, is encouraged to seek immediate advice from their local veterinary practice to ensure the necessary blood tests are carried out.

For more information from the Donkey Sanctuary, see "Buying a donkey of unknown origin--what are the risks?" (link directs to PDF download).

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