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SIDMOUTH: Charity is leading the way in animal therapy

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sidmouth charity The Donkey Sanctuary has begun a new initiative to train animals to support disabled children and care home residents.

Sidmouth charity The Donkey Sanctuary has begun a new initiative to train animals to support disabled children and care home residents.

A SIDMOUTH-BASED charity is making big strides on a new initiative to train ‘therapy animals’ to help those with special needs. The Donkey Sanctuary recently opened its ‘training school’, to prepare donkeys for therapy work, supporting disabled children and residents in care homes. The first five donkeys have been selected from the thousands across the charity’s farms, and after months of training they will ‘pass out’ and be ready to be ridden, groomed and petted by children and elderly people with additional needs. New recruits will take part in training sessions to help them become more familiar with different sights and sounds, as well as plenty of human handling. Bob Venn, Senior Centre Manager at the Donkey Sanctuary, said the service was expanding nationwide, with the animals able to support thousands of people during their lifetime. He added: “We have so much demand for therapy donkeys and so many new projects this year coming up. “They have to be sociable and calm and to love being around people. It is really hard finding the right ones - even from the hundreds of rescued donkeys we take in each year. "By training them here at Sidmouth we can ensure they are ready to go out into the community, and by having donkeys in training all the time we can ensure we have donkeys trained up to replace those that need to retire from their therapy projects.” Larger donkeys are used for riding therapy, carrying children on their backs, while the smaller animals are used for outreach services as they can visit residents' rooms in care homes. And the team hopes to soon have eight donkeys in training, to follow up the charity’s other successful animal therapy projects across the UK and overseas.

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