EARS Donkey Sanctuary’s manager Penny James was recently subjected to criticism from a Greytonian for not responding quickly enough to a foal in need.

We’d like to set the record straight.

EARS is an NPO staffed by Penny, Therdon Duminy an EARS trainee, two welfare assistants, and a handful of unpaid volunteers. The area we try to serve includes Bereaville, Voorstekraal, Genadendal, Bosmanskloof, Heuwelkroon and Greyton. There are more than 400 horses in our valley, the majority of them free-grazing which makes them vulnerable to injuries and illness from fencing, rubble, dog bites, collisions with cars, biliary, ingested plastic and poisons. There are also numerous instances of cruelty and abuse.

Though we are primarily a Sanctuary for abused, abandoned and retired donkeys, we help horses that are injured or ill when resources allow.

Penny has daily responsibilities to our Sanctuary residents, and is usually also caring for horses recuperating in our paddocks from illness or injury. She has a long list of patients in the valley who need daily treatment.

Penny has painstakingly built good relationships with horse owners and has the respect and support of many but there are those who are also very resistant to what they see as our interference. Penny endures both physical and verbal abuse but because of her love for animals she persists. Responding with animosity towards a difficult owner, she says, simply escalates an already tense situation and threatens EARS’ credibility and relationships within the wider community.

It is important to know that EARS may only remove a horse or donkey from its owner if proper legal procedures are followed. The owner has to have received several written warnings; and the court will always look at how we have attempted to work with/educate first, in the event of a case ever being prosecuted.

While we absolutely welcome and depend on feedback from concerned members of the public – we could not reach those far corners without you –  we cannot be everywhere at once. Every horse and donkey is important to us but emergency cases must be dealt with first  and while we would love to take in every injured or ill horse we encounter, we do not have the space or the resources. So before criticising Penny for not responding fast enough to your call, remember there are hundreds of others out there who need her too. She is one person. She is dedicated, passionate about equines and tireless in her commitment to them.

As John F Kennedy once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.