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Donkey found with halter growing into neck
“Fiona” the rescued donkey is safe in her stall after running loose on Highway 120 with a halter grown into the back of her head. - photo by GLENN KAHL

With a halter growing into its neck, a two-year-old donkey was found wandering on Highway near Escalon along Sutliss Road. It was fortunate to be rescued and given medical treatment.

John Airrington, director of the Zen Equine Rescue of Central California (ZERCCA), said the donkey managed to get onto someone’s property on Combs Road.  He said area residents noted it had been running around for several weeks in the area.

A nearby resident  said she had tried to locate the donkey’s owner but had no luck.  She said she had also called the county animal control, but said that she was told they didn’t deal with livestock, Arrington said.   

The ZERCCA director said he went out with a trailer Tuesday morning to pick up the donkey and found that she actually did have a halter growing into the back of her head – estimating it had been on her for nearly two years.

Arrington took the donkey directly to the Pioneer Equine Hospital in Oakdale where she underwent a two-hour surgery with Dr.Stephanie Mathis and four interns who were working in the hospital.  The interns were graduates of U.C. Davis, University of Pennsylvania and Colorado State.

Dr. Mathis said her hospital has a relationship with the recovery group giving them a discounted rate for services.  She explained that they briefly anesthetized the donkey in removing the halter to minimize any trauma, noting that pain probably came as the nerves were being strangulated through the animal’s growth within the halter.

She said her concern is that the animal may be very head shy when it comes to putting a halter on her in the future.   In an attempt to lessen that probability, a halter was put on her following her surgery.  She noted that donkeys are often used to trail fouls, adding that it is the mule that is used mostly for a pack animal, not a donkey.

Arrington said there were no stitches and no staples used to close the resulting wound, adding there was no point in removing the strangulated tissue.  Arrington said all the vets said they had never seen anything like this in their past experiences.

Arrington said the donkey has been named “Fiona” as it has led a hellish life.  He said she fears humans and cowers when anyone enters her stall as though she is expecting to have the crap beat out of her.

She will be rechecked at the hospital in two to three weeks.  In the meantime Arrington tends to her three to four times a day cleaning and washing her wound on the high neck area on the back of her head.  The donkey has been put on antibiotics for the next 10 days, he said.

“The next battle is going to be her training,” Arrington said.  “I am in the process of looking for a trainer for her.  Conditions of adoption would go along with her through the Zen Equine Rescue of Central California.”

Donkeys have commonly been used as guarding animals for sheep and horses defending against predatory animals including coyotes.  They have been known to kill coyotes.

Donations for the support of Fiona can be made either through Pioneer Equine Hospital in Oakdale or through the Zen Equine Rescue of Central California.  Call Director John Airrington at 992-7236 or the Pioneer Equine Hospital at 847-5951.