We provide a variety of services to donkey owners, potential adopters, and interested members of the public in general. The following are the main categories of services that we offer: Rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, long-term protection, education, and our outreach program.
Like all our services, our rescue activities are restricted to the resources available to us at a given time. We cannot promise that we are able to take in animals in need of rescue at any specific time; however, when we are not, we will usually try and refer inquiring parties to other suitable organizations or alternative ways to help the respective animals.
(1) Owner surrenders and owner referrals
a) Owner surrenders: We take in donkeys from owners who feel that, for whatever reason, they are unable to (properly) take care of them any longer. We can do this only if we have sufficient space and resources to take them in at a given time. When we take in a donkey as an owner surrender, we have the owner sign a transfer of ownership certificate. In cases of owner surrender, we do appreciate a monetary and/or hay donation that will at least help us get started on the expenses that the new intake will incur for us. The amount of the donation is unspecified, but the more is donated the better owners can ensure that we are able to protect their donkeys in the long run. We may also ask for help with trailering the donkey to our farm.
b) Owner referrals: We are a small organization with limited resources, and there are times when we receive inquiries from people interested in adopting a donkey or two but do not have any suitable donkeys for adoption at the time. We may be able, however, to refer such a potential adopter to an owner who may have contacted us recently for assistance with rehoming their donkey. That will depend on whether the potential adopter's situation sounds like it may be suitable for an adoption based on our principles of donkey wellbeing and also on whether the owner who needs to relinquish their donkey is willing to do a direct sale rather than surrender the donkey to our organization. In that case, we are no longer involved in the donkey's wellbeing after he leaves his former owner's place, and the donkey is not under the protection of a transfer of ownership certificate or adoption contract from us. The owners themselves must make sure in that case that the new ownership situation will be beneficial for the donkey in the long run. In some cases, when we cannot take in a donkey at the moment due to lack of resources at the time, it may still be the best available option for an owner. For owner referrals we do not explicitly ask for a donation or service fee, but we are always grateful for a contribution in exchange for our services.
(2) Collaboration with federal, state or county agencies
At various times in our history, we have collaborated with BLM agents, inspectors from the NM Livestock Board or animal control officers to take in donkeys that were surrendered to them, that they had been notified about or that they collected when they were running loose and abandoned. For example, 2 of our recent rescues from 2018 were owner surrenders mediated to us by the Valencia County Animal Control office, which does not take in farm animals but wanted to help the animals belonging to an old man who felt he could no longer properly care for them. In 2013, some agents of the BLM delivered a family of 3 feral donkeys to us that had been found wandering onto BLM land without actually belonging to a herd management area. And 2 of the donkeys that we rescued during our first year of operation in 2011 came from the NM Livestock Board. However, as with owner surrenders, we can take in new rescues only as there are appropriate resources available; if there aren't at a given time, we have to refer inquiring agencies to other equine rescues in the state.
(3) Rescue from auctions and feedlots
Especially in our early beginnings, we rescued larger groups of donkeys from auction houses and feedlots in the state, as they were at risk of being shipped to Mexico for slaughter or to be sold as roping donkeys. Many of the donkeys that we found at such places were also severely neglected, sometimes ill, and often terrified of human contact. Bailing out donkeys from auction houses requires a lot of monetary resources, and so in recent years - as we overall reduced the number of donkeys we maintain at any given time - we have focused more on owner surrenders, where we do not have to pay a considerable price just to own the animal in need. Owner surrender enables us to rescue donkeys even before they enter a supply chain for auctions, horse traders or slaughter house providers.
(4) Purchase of animals in need from private owners
On occasion we have spent money to purchase donkeys from owners when it seemed that they were and/or would otherwise end up in a bad situation. For example, during our first year we purchased 4 BLM donkeys that were advertised on Craigslist as roping donkeys. Just like with purchases from auctions or feedlots, however, there is a limit on how much money we can spend just to obtain ownership of a animal in need. We also want to caution anyone not to encourage sellers to appeal to the bleeding hearts of animal lovers in order to make a large profit. In the case of the Craigslist ad, we waited until the price for the donkeys went down to a point that the owners were no longer able to profit much from the sale. At this time, we much prefer surrenders that are for free and will usually pass on animals that are offered for sale.
The rehabilitation of donkeys coming from situations of neglect, abuse, abandonment and/or mismanagement can be either physical or mental/emotional. Both aspects of rehabilitation have fairly equal priority for us. With the help of our veterinarians and farriers we have successfully and safely rehabilitated donkeys with strangles, vastly overgrown hooves, white line disease, and club feet. We have also helped donkeys whose conditions were incurable to get to a comfortable level of management.
Our rehabilitation and training program also includes the correction of behavioral issues as well as a certain amount of ground training for formerly feral and/or abused donkeys so as to make them suitable for adoption to the right home. It includes resocializing donkeys who were forced to be alone for a long time, teaching abused donkeys to trust humans (either for the first time, or to return to a former level of trust after a longer period of negative experiences), to accept a halter, being walked on halter and lead, to stand tied, and to lift the feet for cleaning and trimming.
At this time, we do not offer specialized training such as for packing, riding or driving. However, we may take out suitable donkeys on the trail and/or familiarize them with blankets or saddles.
Observing how a group of scared, emotionally numb, more or less wild donkeys starts developing their different personalities as they are gentled, learn to trust, and positively interact with their caretakers and other donkeys is one of the greatest wonders and rewards or us. So is helping neglected donkeys along with their ailments, curing them and seeing them thrive. While our work entails a lot of personal hardships and is not appreciated by everyone in the human world, for us it is one of the most meaningful activities imaginable.
Our training methods are primarily based on the principle of positive reinforcement. Experience has shown us that rewarding desirable behaviors, for example with treats, is much more effective than a pressure-and-release type of approach in all cases of formerly mishandled, abused or otherwise fearful donkeys. In some cases, when donkeys have acquired undesirable behaviors such as nipping or biting, a combined positive and negative reinforcement approach may be appropriate.
With regard to adoptions, our work does not stop with the departure of a donkey to a new home. TLS retains certain rights and responsibilities even after the donkeys leave us to make sure they will remain safe and can return to us if that is required. TLS usually retains the right to visit and even repossess donkeys if their adopter is no longer able or willing to properly care for them, and adopters are generally not permitted to transfer possession of their adopted donkeys to a third party without written permission from TLS. Thus, we do not actually 'sell' our donkeys. They are adopted out under a contract that prohibits adopters from rehoming them without our permission. Adoptions are tied to specific individuals and situations.
Our standard adoption fee is $300 for a single donkey and $500 for a pair. The fee includes recent Coggins, wellness exam, core vaccinations (in fall/winter flu/rhino instead of west nile), dental float if needed, hoof trim, worming, and brand inspection if needed. We conduct home inspections prior to adoption. Our donkeys cannot be used for breeding, slaughter, roping or donkey basketball. We no longer adopt out donkeys to homes where their primary function is being a guard animal. We require a donkey companion for most donkeys and an equine companion for all donkeys, and we also require sufficient space, sound fencing, and a roofed shelter adequate to protect our donkeys from inclement weather. We rarely have mini donkeys for adoption. Most of our donkeys are standard size.
Please do not try to negotiate down our adoption fees. We use these fees to cover veterinary exams for donkeys going to new homes, vaccinations, and other routine treatments; the cost of these procedures usually exceed our standard adoption fees. If you ask for special discounts on your adoption fee even though the donkeys you want to adopt have received standard ground training and other routine care in preparation for their adoption, then it will make us think that you might also try to save money on future veterinary exams.