Donkeys really are misunderstood. At least that is what Amy and I told ourselves when we sold our businesses and took the plunge into trying to change their plight nearly 25 years ago. If you think about it, you don’t call someone a “Catass!” when they cut you off in traffic. You didn’t see Bugs Bunny turn into a puppy when he did something dumb, and Pinocchio didn’t turn into a lion when he was overindulgent. No, these negative stereotypes were always attributed to donkeys.
Horses are viewed as majestic, while donkeys are thought of as stupid and stubborn. I spend more time than I should away from my beautiful wife in the deserts of the Southwest studying and catching wild donkeys. A wild horse will run from people because their reaction to danger is that of flight, whereas a donkey’s reaction to danger is to stand and fight. Now tell me, which is more majestic?
After being enamored by these lovely creatures, we walked away from a successful life in business to focus our efforts on building the world’s largest donkey rescue with a plan to save them all.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue was founded in 2000 as a backyard hobby in Northern Los Angeles County. Before its creation, Amy had a retired horse that needed a buddy, and she found a young donkey online to keep it company.
Izzy entered our lives and our hearts. Having never had a donkey, we were astounded by her loving, loyal, and affectionate nature. We suddenly started seeing donkeys everywhere. Just like seeing a car in the same color as yours, they were always there; we just never noticed them.
In the beginning
The first donkey Amy noticed that needed care had green stuff dripping from his nose, and his chest was rubbed raw from lunging at people through the bars of his stall at a feed store. Amy bought him and paid a man to deliver him to our small ranch. After paying $1,500 in vet bills and spending my evenings talking with him, Banjo was just as sweet as Izzy. By then, Amy had found two more donkeys that would shake so badly from fear they would collapse onto the ground to escape being beaten. We ended up calling them Martin and Lewis. They eventually healed under our care as well.
Amy kept finding them and we kept fixing them until one day we realized we had a lot of donkeys in our care.
The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue was created to place donkeys in adoptive homes where we could set standards. One of the most important rules was that if a situation changed in an adoptee’s new home, the donkeys had to return to us.
Our first big job as a formal rescue was for the California Department of Corrections, which needed us to remove a herd of 26 donkeys from a large area that they needed to spray with weed killer to start development.
That led to Peaceful Valley working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The more we did, the more we were asked to do.
In 2018, Peaceful Valley’s board of trustees approved a significant expansion. We developed three regional rescue/rehabilitation facilities: one in Arizona, one at our headquarters in West Texas, and another near Lynchburg, Virginia. Each facility acts as regional management for our satellite adoption centers in the U.S. from coast to coast and border to border, numbering around 50. Volunteers help in the adoption process of getting Peaceful Valley’s donkeys into prescreened loving homes.
The central headquarters also oversees the sanctuary system, which manages up to 2,000 donkeys in 20-25 large sanctuaries in Texas and Oklahoma. Our Arizona facility manages our Wild Burro Project, which includes 5.5 million acres of wild donkey habitat, including Death Valley, Mojave National Preserve, Fort Irwin, and NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.
We have recently agreed to take on another 3,000 wild donkeys from the Bureau of Land Management; this will be on top of the 2,500 that we have already taken from them. We are also in talks with counties in Southern California to help with their wild donkey issues, where donkeys are getting killed on roadways.
With our network of rescue facilities, our ability to adopt out well-trained donkeys throughout the United States, our expertise in safely and humanely catching wild donkeys, and our ability to rescue domestic donkeys from abuse, neglect, and abandonment within 24 hours anywhere in the lower 48 states, Amy and I have kept our promise that we made nearly 25 years ago to improve the plight of the American Donkey.
Join us in our quest. Our San Angelo, Texas facility is open for tours Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm. To learn more, visit our website at www.donkeyrescue.org