The Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary is set to close, disappointing campaigners who have worked hard to keep it open. The Devon-based charity has announced that after a thorough assessment, they have decided to shut down the Ivybridge centre, despite a petition with 4,518 signatures calling for its preservation.

Donkey Assisted Activity Centres in Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds are also facing closure, while the centre in Belfast will be downsized to a small sanctuary and rehoming facility. However, the main site in Sidmouth will remain operational.

The petition on launched by campaigners states: “The donkey sanctuary in Ivybridge has helped so many people. They aren't just a home for donkeys; they also host a programme called donkey-assisted activities which helps people with their wellbeing and mental health. This sanctuary is an invaluable resource for our community, providing therapeutic benefits to many individuals who struggle with mental health issues. Losing it would be devastating not only to the animals but also to those who rely on its services.”

The Donkey Sanctuary initiated a consultation in May regarding the possible shutdown of four sites, which included Ivybridge. A spokesperson for the Sanctuary said: “We have now completed a collective consultation process which gave careful consideration to the changes we proposed in May. In light of this, we will shortly be closing operational activities at four of our centres and repurposing our Belfast centre. These changes were proposed in order to make best use of our donors' money and focus on our core mission to improve the lives of donkeys here in the UK and around the world. We will now assess each of our donkeys' individual requirements so we can start the process of moving them from the centres to their new homes. As the collective consultation has ended, we are now entering a process of individual consultation with staff from the centres affected.”

The Donkey Sanctuary, established by Elisabeth Svendsen in 1969 in Devon and registered as a charity in 1973, has grown into one of the world's leading equine charities, boasting an annual income and expenditure of £37m.