The first donkeys arrived in the New World in 1495 with Christopher Columbus. (Photo: Getty/Hola Images)
As the relentless drought in Texas drives up the price of hay, increasing numbers of Texas farmers are abandoning their donkeys in remote rural areas, hoping, perhaps, that the hardy animals will survive on whatever kind of foliage they can find. In reality, most donkeys get rounded up, and authorities then attempt to find their owners, which is incredibly difficult. More often than not, the animals end up at rescue centers or at the homes of volunteer rescuers. The problem is, the rescue centers are overrun with donkeys.
In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Van Zandt county deputy R.P. Pat Burnett said that he has handled about 200 abandoned donkey cases in the last two years.
I went to our commissioner's court about, oh, two months ago now and asked them in a last-case scenario if we could euthanize them. I don't want to euthanize them. I rescue animals on a regular basis, but it's getting to the point that the SPCA can't take them. The Black Beauty Ranch, which they can live out their lives on, is full. Everybody is full. And every county in Texas that has people and animals, I know they're having the same problems, every one.
While it's easy to empathize with the farmers' desperation, they need to find a solution within their own communities instead of placing the burden on animal rescuers and law enforcement. Donkeys are funny and lovable animals, and communities could host fundraisers or campaigns to bring national attention to their plight.
Farmers might offer a service or product in exchange for boarding their donkeys, or let them graze with cows or other animals. As climate change continues to transform the world, both people and animals will have to discover new strategies for survival.