Rescued: September 2, 2016. Died: September 21, 2016.
At lunchtime on a hot Spanish afternoon, we received a call from Almoradí police to collect a donkey they were about to seize.
We were pretty horrified by what we found – Paco’s former owners had fitted him with a very small head collar, which was so tight it had cut into the skin behind his ears and across his nose.
Back at our rescue centre, we got to work treating the nasty infection in these injuries. When we started cleaning up the wound behind Paco’s ears, we discovered a great hole oozing with pus. Poor man. He must have been in so much pain.
The tight head collar had also caused problems with Paco’s nose joint and surrounding skin.
A few days later it became clear that Paco had arrived carrying tetanus, a life-threatening illness. Sadly, this is a familiar story for us. We take these animals in from the police but we just don't know what time bombs are ticking away in them. Paco's former owners kept him in filthy, cruel conditions and created this problem, but once again we are left to pick up the pieces – and find the money to pay for his veterinary care. We receive not a cent of government funding.
We rushed Paco off to the Alicante horse hospital, where veterinarians confirmed his jaw had been paralysed by tetanus. He was fed first by feeding tube and later through an oesophecus feeding hole. He seemed to be improving.
But on September 21, veterinarians called to say Paco's stomach muscles had also been affected by tetanus, causing his digestion to slow down. We then made the difficult decision to put him to sleep.
The one consolation is that at least we gave Paco a pain-free death. We know that if we hadn't rescued Paco, he would have had an awful death – he wouldn't have been able to eat, he would have struggled to breathe and he would have had a long, painful death. We know his former owners would have done nothing. So our biggest comfort is that he did not suffer and experienced love and kindness in his final days.
We cannot thank the Almoradí police enough for their action on this case. Almoradí has always been a bit of a stronghold for unsavoury people and it’s been a real tough nut to crack because up until now, police haven’t really been that interested in what the people there did with their animals.
But things seem to be changing now and officers are really on board and doing everything they can to get these animals out of these hell holes. It’s cases like this that truly make all our hard work feel worthwhile.
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save donkeys like Paco, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.