Since the Donkey Sanctuary established its Spanish base in 2003 (el Refugio del Burrito), one of its priorities has been to improve the welfare of the donkeys working in Mijas. Back then, the NGO started to take donkeys that were unfit for work into its sanctuary, carrying out regular health inspections on the working animals, advising owners on basic care and behaviour and even providing free veterinary treatment for those donkeys that needed hoof and dental care.
Years later, in 2013, the NGO signed an agreement with the town hall, creating guidelines for the donkey owners to adhere to and permission to visit the stables where the donkeys rest out of work hours, with our vets, to perform checks on the premises. The workers are under instructions that they are not to work any donkeys who have injuries, wounds that need treatment, or are not fit for work.
Right now, ERB is revising the municipal regulations, together with the “Consejalia de Transporte y Movilidad" which is the council in charge of Transport, therefore also the donkey taxis. The aim is to incorporate our “Good Practice Guidelines” on the local laws to regulate the donkey taxi business, taking the donkeys’ welfare more into account.
Other action carried out by the NGO has been to offer free training in basic care and handling to the donkeys’ owners. This training was also given to the staff of Mijas´ council and the local police, who have also been given a special module on specific equid and animal protection legislation –in order to be applied later with the donkeys of Mijas. A notice has also been put up at the donkey-taxi stop with relevant information for tourists, such as the maximum weight the animal can carry.
The Organization constantly asks for citizen participation to improve the conditions of these animals. In order to ensure the well-being of donkeys, el Refugio has a 24-hour telephone number where any passer-by can report equine abuse or welfare problems. In addition, the NGO also asks citizens to send their complaints directly to the Transport and Mobility department of the municipality of Mijas, in order for them to take responsible preventive measures.
One of the main struggles that the organization keeps fighting for is the construction of new stables and paddocks for the donkeys, where they can rest at night with space to act out their natural behaviour and lie down to rest. They are permanently tied up in the stables so that has a negative impact on their welfare.
At the donkey taxi waiting area the town hall has installed partitions so that the donkeys can be tied with a longer rope and move more freely, but this is often not possible as the donkeys are still tied with a very short rope, and in our opinion not enough monitoring and control is being carried out by the competent authorities.
In order to speed up the building of the new stables for the donkeys, El Refugio del Burrito has provided the council with diagrams of shelters and are offering ongoing assistance with the project. The ideal stables include large paddocks for resting or running freely after their whole day of work, where they can express their natural behaviour. This project has sadly still not been completed by the authorities.
Of course, in the medium to long-term, the NGO advocates that the City Council promote more sustainable and cultural activities adapted to our present times and in line with animal welfare, that could equally benefit animals and people. These activities could range from interactions to experiences on the ground with these beautiful animals, where they could educate in animal empathy and provide knowledge about the evolution and history of these forgotten donkeys, their basic care, feeding and also free interaction sessions in open paddocks, as is already done in several sanctuaries. In this way Mijas could continue using the donkey icon to promote their tourism, and families making a living from this activity could redirect their business to continue living with such noble animals as they have done throughout generations.
This idea is not ridiculous at all. Townhall members have demonstrated their intention to create a sanctuary in-situ, in order to give their donkeys the retirement they deserve when they stop working as taxis.
Currently, ERB is waiting for the Transport and Mobility department (responsible for donkey-taxi issues) to confirm the date of the meeting to move forward with the plan for building the new stables, and deliver them some of the most recent complaints so they can act on them. ERB ensures they do everything in their hands for these animals and will never turn its back on them, but pleads for the commitment and action from the competent authorities to further improve the welfare of the Mijas donkeys.
We can only continue to rescue and care for donkeys with your help, so please continue to support the work of El Refugio del Burrito, as together, we can make a big difference.