HOUSTON (AP) — With pastures withered from a lingering drought, farmers in Texas and northwest Louisiana have abandoned donkeys by the hundreds, turning them into wandering refugees that have severely tested animal rescue groups.

The nation’s biggest donkey rescue group says that since March 2011, it has taken in nearly 800 donkeys abandoned in Texas, where ranchers mainly used the animals to guard their herds. Many of the cattle and goats have been sold off, largely because of the drought and the nation’s economic slump, putting the donkeys out of a job.

And although the drought that began in late 2010 is over now, the flood of donkeys continues, said Mark Meyers, executive director of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue.

“Last week I spent two days on the road and got 20 donkeys each day,” he said Wednesday. Since then, he’s had a call of about 12 more in the Midlands, Texas, area.

“Hay prices still haven’t come down. And what little grass is growing, people are going to save it for the animals that are going to make them money,” he said.

In the north Louisiana town of Athens, Keith Gantt, who rounds up loose livestock for the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office, says he has dozens of donkeys that he can’t give away. Some he’s had for two years.

“People just turn ’em out on the highway. The sheriff’s department makes me go catch them and then I get stuck with them,” he said.

The donkey market has shriveled with the dried-up fields of Texas, where auction houses won’t take them.

“The last ones we tried to sell, they brought the donkeys back to us. They tried to get a $5 bid for both of them and couldn’t get a $5 bid,” Deputy Bill Pentecost, who wrangles stray livestock for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office north of Austin, said last month.

Texas has 1.4 million fewer cattle than it did a year ago, a drop of 10.5 percent.

“Texas has large, large, large, large ranches. As the wells dried up and grazing’s gone down, animals are coming up to the fence to eat. People are realizing they’ve sold all their cattle … but they’ve got 20 donkeys,” Meyers said earlier this year.

His organization, the largest such group in the U.S., normally takes in about 400 donkeys and burros — small, feral donkeys — a year. Since March 2011, he said, the group has accepted nearly 800 donkeys abandoned in Texas — 600 last year, 172 so far this year. Some were abandoned, some abused and some caught in roundups of herds on federal lands.

The drought, the economy and the high price of hay have forced ranchers across the state to sell off their livestock. Meyers said he’s been paying $290 to $350 a ton for hay, compared to a top price of $90 in normal times, and must send as far as Montana and Minnesota to get it. Even if the weather allows a crop this year, the price isn’t likely to go down immediately, he said.

People often sneak donkeys onto somebody else’s land, he said. “They’ll drive a couple counties over, look for a place where there’s a bad part on a fence and kick them onto somebody else’s property. I get a call at least once a week from somebody saying, ‘I woke up and found donkeys on my property.'”

Texas ranchers use female donkeys to guard remote herds of livestock, said Kathy Dean, CEO and founder of Longhopes Donkey Shelter in Bennett, Colo. They’re docile, friendly, and don’t eat like a horse, she said.

However, the animals are instinctively hostile to dogs and their cousins: wolves and coyotes. “They will bray, bare their teeth, run and chase, and attempt to bite and kick an intruder,” according to a Colorado State University fact sheet. In 1989, it said, 1,000 to 1,800 of 11,000 Texas sheep and goat producers used guard donkeys.

While Peaceful Valley has about 1,850 rescued donkeys in Texas, California and Oklahoma, Longhopes has a total of about 40 at any one time. It’s among a handful of donkey rescues around the country, Meyers said.

He said that out of the 772 Texas donkeys that Peaceful Valley has taken in, he’s been able to place only about 40 with adoptive owners. One reason is that most were uncastrated males — about eight of those for every female he’s rescued. Ranchers may keep females to guard their sheep, cattle or goats, but males are too aggressive, he said.

Donkeys’ physiology makes them harder to castrate than horses, so the operation is more expensive.

Gantt, a Claiborne Parish livestock farmer who works on contract for the sheriff’s office, blames U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for the scores of donkeys he’s taking care of. Landrieu was among sponsors of a measure that shut down the nation’s only horsemeat processing plant by forbidding the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect such plants.

It wasn’t renewed last year, after the Government Accountability Office reported that it seemed only to have moved the slaughter. About 100,000 horses a year had been killed at the last U.S. plant, and about that many were being shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.

However, it doesn’t appear that many donkeys were ever slaughtered. A Colorado State University study published in 2001 found that of 1,348 animals surveyed at the three horse slaughterhouses then open, four were donkeys or mules. If those proportions were typical, 100,000 slaughtered equines might include 300 donkeys and mules.

Given those numbers, “it stands to reason that other factors are responsible for the hundreds of abandoned donkeys,” Landrieu spokeswoman Erin Donar said. Landrieu said she plans to push for a bill that would forbid both horse slaughterhouses and exportation of horses for slaughter.

Gantt contends that closing the slaughterhouses cut the base price for horses so low that there was even less market for donkeys.

Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue in Dansville, Mich., usually has about 20 to 25 animals at a time, said president Sharon Windsor. She said she was recently asked if she could take 44 from Texas.

The number was likely to increase because none of the jacks was castrated and “they’re all running around together,” she said. Nor was that the only problem. To be adoptable, donkeys must be friendly and trained.

“Some of these donkeys are wilder than a March hare,” Windsor said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (75)
  1. jim says:

    They are pretty good eating – had a bunch of stewed Donkey in the Arab world – prefer goat.

    1. M E HVAC says:

      You never ate any donkey in any Arab land. I have worked from Afghanistan to Iraq, Saudi, Iraq, Kuwait, Sudan, etc. NO DONKEY MEAT. Liar. Now goat they do eat the Hell out of.

    2. HypnoToad says:

      I’m not getting the problem here. Donkey meat is considered a delicacy in China. Cubans eat it. I’d bet you my left kidney the North Koreans would be pretty excited to get their hands on 1000 donkeys. Heck, they’d probably fry up my kidney, given the chance. It’d be a nice change from the tree bark and old car seat leather they’re used to surviving on.
      Tongans eat Shetland ponies. Donkey would probably do there. Ditto for Somalia…

      1. JoeMama says:

        There will be a lot of new 50% dinner specials at the Mexican restaurants over the next couple weeks, guaranteed.

      2. jeff Haupt says:

        God Bless the Donkey, they are wonderful animals and deserve a chance.

  2. Bill in Houston says:

    Oh, I thought they were talking about Democrats. Alas. Hope springs eternal.

    1. An says:

      You know things are tough when donkeys get laid off. Hopefully they can start enjoying life and go eat, get some sun…
      Even if times are tough, at least help your animals. Thats the right thing to do

      1. DonkeyDrought says:

        This story isn’t enough proof how much of the news is orchestrated? Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. Even most of the comments online are financed with your tax dollars. Big brother is trying to create the perception of public opinion while burying the truth. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history before it disappears forever much like me.

      2. The Sage Waitress says:

        I hope this Sarah Palin troll who shows up everywhere is a WebBot. It is depressing to think of someone squatting in their dingy house all day putting up these boring posts.

      3. Factchecker says:

        Thanks “DonkeyDrought.” I can see why the government doesn’t want something of that magnitude being leaked. Keep spreading the truth.

      4. ustserv says:

        They need an affordable healthcare plan, food stamps and unemployment compensation!

        Tkeu meed tp demonstrate in the capital and meet with Obama to get some of his “stash”.

    2. No One Important says:


      You were hoping they were talking about euthanizing a bunch of democrats?

      Hey. . .there is always hope. . . .

      1. Mark Matis says:

        I have a dream!

      2. DizzD says:

        Hey Donkey Drought another new name on the same day wow thats two more to add to my list.


    3. Olivia says:


    4. The MaD HaCkER says:

      I had to wonder how long it would take to get to the democrats 😉 They SAY that the econemy is improving 😉

    5. Tangier says:

      These that they have on hand are more useful than Democrats… and more wanted by the public.

  3. Sam Houston says:

    Yeah Bill, I was sure they were talking about Democrats too when they mentioned the bad economy.

  4. anonimouse says:

    Since donkeys and democrats are both jacka**es, I see stimulus coming

  5. Rupert Pupkin says:

    One more Donkey (D) will be unemployed in November.

  6. iambicpentamaster says:

    Donkey = Democrat

    No loss…

  7. Aaron says:

    I hope a few more donkeys are out of a job in November.

  8. Jody says:

    I wonder…can they sell these donkeys to people in Mexico who might be happy to have them? I don’t know if livestock can be sold across country borders like that, but I also don’t want to have my taxes increased to pay for “donkey welfare.”

    1. No One Important says:


      You already do Jody. . .

    2. 100Octane says:

      You have to wonder if a bunch of illegal donkeys crossing the border into Mexico, might be a…burden on their government. Sorry

    3. lesley turnbull says:

      Some countries treat donkeys/burrows horribly. I just finsihed signing two petitions on the Care2.com site to try to get them some sort of protection from cruelty and to educate the people whoi work them to death literally. /there is a story of one donky trying to protect a dog and a man took a digger machine to him and crushed him to death. Please try to keep these donkeys in the U.S. where hopefully people are aware of their plight, and will try to find them good homes. I wish I had a yard in a county that woud allow them- but since losing my home in a county that didnt even want you to have cats that left the house. I am now in a more rural area, and looking to rent a house and get out of this apt. The first thing I am going to do is start taking in rescues. Hopefully, I will be on enough land where I will be able to get a horse or donkey. I am sure there must be other people willing to do the same. Could someone with computer savvy forward this article to the Care2.com site? They may be able to post it where some interested people could help. There are a half a million good hearted people on that site! Do not give up hope for them yet, please!

  9. Olglory says:

    I have had three rescue burros as pets for many years. They are docile, loving, funny, and great companions. Follow me around my property and will even come up and give you a kiss. Like most animals they need patience and love, but the rewards are great. Only problem I have is the use of the donkey as a symbol of the Marxist Party. I too hope THAT donkey will be out to pasture in November. Maybe Ted Turner can let him graze on his vast properties.

    1. mirted says:

      Have you heard? Jane Fonda is going to play a donkey in her next made-for-tv movie.

      They’re going to name her on-set trailer “The Hanoi Hilton”.

  10. Factchecker says:

    Hundreds more Donkeys will be out of work in November.


    1. Factchecker says:

      Call it prophecy….call it foreshadowing…it’s a sign of things to come.

  11. jschm says:

    In our future: the Donkey Relief Act of 2012 aka the A$$ ACT

  12. jschm says:

    will these poor Donkey’s have to gets jobs as Mules for the drug runners? Oh the Humanity of it!

  13. Robin says:

    Give them citizenship and a voter ID. Now that is something the Democrats will empbrace

  14. B. Samuel Davis says:

    Substitute Donkey for Democrat and it becomes almost funny.

  15. Jerzey Boy says:

    BHO needs them as only a dumb ass will vote for him.

  16. ken says:

    Sell them to Italy. “Asino” is common on the menu there! I’ve had it is various Trattoria e Ristorante. It is better than the animals starving in abandonment.

    1. Frank Valli says:

      You stupid idiot ,you never put your hillbilly arse in Italy there is not asino in Italian restaurant or trattorias ……Or maybe after seeing your idiot face they sell you carne d’asino meat to you ….dude go back to your trailer and stay there please. ………You are a Southern moron …A stereotype !!!!!

  17. Fred Rick says:

    Legalize donkey shows, like they have in Mexico.

    1. stinky stew says:

      yea, good idea! frankly the beast is in better shape than the Sows you see at Wal-Mart- with there mini-mes in tow, I must ask the farm sows for forgiveness- compairing them to human sows ya know—–

  18. Louisiana Boy says:

    so this is how Cry-baby Mary spends her time: protecting donkeys and horses from the slaughter house.

  19. sailordude says:

    Send them to Mexico, besides food they can use them in donkey shows!

  20. The wicked wizard of the west says:

    i’ll take um.. when the shtf.. i will be riding donkeys around like there was no tomorrow.. donkeys don’t quit… i’ll have an army of rabid donkeys… yesss. an army of rabid, flying donkeys….

  21. jackboot says:

    For God’s sake, put them out of their misery. Its called a bullet. Donkey’s are not some lovable character out of Shrek or a Walt Disney movie. They do not make good pets. Their bite is dangerous as hell, and they are agressive towards humans and other animals.

    1. jschm says:

      You brute

    2. ... says:

      Maybe the ones you trained.

  22. rawheadrex says:

    Democrats will make homes for them;birds of a feather, etc.

    1. jschm says:

      ship them all to the WH.

  23. Tom says:

    I think the Folks South of the Boarder could use them !!

  24. tom in ny says:

    Great allegory for the Democrats come November

  25. dam says:

    …and yet the biggest a$$ of them all remains employed in the White House.

  26. biffula says:

    Blame the peta morons. They got horse slaughter houses outlawed in Texas. Now what rational thinking people said was going to happen is happening. Horses, mules and donkeys are suffering because there is no place to take them to have them HUMANELY put down. You could make a few bucks for doing it too, so there was an incentive. Not any more. Thanks peta imbeciles.

  27. Bill says:

    There will be more “donkeys” out of a job after November 6…

  28. Alfonse says:

    Put them in the Whitehouse, nobody will notice the difference.

  29. Bogie says:

    Can we use them to keep out illegal alliens?

  30. Bill Key says:

    Where is he MIDLANDS, TX area. There is a Midland, TX and they have a few donkeys and some llamas but more oil wells than anything else.

  31. John Hilton says:

    There is something that I do not understand about this article.

    A cow eats differently than a horse. A cow cuts the grass off close to the ground and eats the blades. A horse cannot do that, so it pulls the grass out by the roots and eats the whole plant. This is the reason that horse herds have to be thinned and the horses sent to packing plants for cat food. But how does a donkey eat grass?

    When the Spanish arrived in North America, many of them set up homesteads in what is now Texas. The Commanches, Apaches, and Kiowa Indians killed them and set their animals free. Cattle was “white man’s buffalo”. Those cattle roamed free and multiplied. In the early 16th century, Coronado, starting on the west coast of Mexico just opposite Mexico City moved up the west coast to what is now California and them eastwards through Arizona, New Mexco , and northern Texas looking for the “Three Cities of Gold”. In New Mexico he found a huge field of grass stretching for hundreds of miles. which he named the “Staked Plains”. The horses and cattle freed by the indians got into that area and multiplied, and in three of centuries, devastated it. The devastation was really caused by the horses. By then, that area was essentially a desert. The railroad was coming into Kansas and people, probably the Texans, decided to drive the large cattle herds up to that railroad. I am not too certain that that area has grown back. You people in Texas would undoubtedly know. .

    This is why those horses are regularly slaughtered although the forestry people in the U.S. have been trying to get other countries to take as many animals as they can so that the animals will not have to be slaughtered. But what about the donkeys? Is it dangerous to leave all those donkeys running about? Do they eat like a horse, or what?

    A Canadian

    1. rolandotx says:

      Sorry but you have your facts wrong about the destruction of the New Mexico grasslands. It was grazing by sheep that ruined them because sheep cut the grass so close to the ground that the grass can’t recover/regrow. As for wild horses (mustangs) the regular thinning of the wild herds has been necessary because of competition for grazing land in the western US from livestock. If the animals are going to be killed anyway, what the hell difference does it make if they are used for dog/cat food? Same thing for donkeys.

  32. cbinflux says:

    There will be millions more wandering donkeys this November. Wandering away from Dear Reader.

  33. cbinflux says:

    Google “donkey recipes”. Waste not, want not.

  34. gopelephant says:

    Isn’t it just about time for the donkey baseball season. They could expand the leagues and give these donkey’s purpose.

    Otherwise I expect they will all run for office as democrats.

  35. Donkey says:

    Bring those donkeys to Cripple Creek Colo, the greatest example of free-range donkeys in America.

  36. GD says:

    Donkey —- It’s what’s for dinner……………….

  37. Pete says:

    That is a very sad story. Just goes to show you that the current idiot in charge still has no idea how to turn the economy around. He’s too busy on his road trips spending taxpayers money trying to lie his way back into office for another 4 years of creating more debt for us. Way to go!

  38. stinky stew says:

    There are certan bars in Mexico where these Donkeys can find employment -and a good time too.

  39. WeeWillie says:

    Huge amounts of dried fodder creates a serious fire hazard in Conservations reserves. Why not cut that fodder and feed it to starving cattle and equines. Also use such fire hazard fodder to feed the 50,000 mustangs in federal custody. (Or better yet process the mustangs through Chinese or French digestive tracts.) Starving cattle next to large tracts of fire hazard fodder is what one gets when the government runs things.

  40. MNBobster says:

    We need donkey stimulus to create jobs. Where’s the white house weigh in on this travesty. OCCUPY TEXAS you donkeys!

  41. glenp says:

    maybe we can RETIRE the biggest donkey residing in teh WH

  42. J. Potter says:

    So who do I call or go to to adopt a few of them? Keith Gantt or the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office?
    If they would donate the fencing and feed I would take in a few dozen of them. I have the land and the time!

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