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Our Story

Although the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada was incorporated in August, 1992, the idea for it began many years before with the dreams of a young girl. When Sandra Pady encountered working animals languishing in fields, in debilitating cold or sweltering heat, lacking food, water, and shelter, she became obsessed with the animals’ welfare. Told by her parents that animals did not have souls and therefore did not suffer - a belief that, unfortunately, is held by many to this day - Sandra was unable to reconcile her parents’ convictions with her own.

It wasn’t until many years later, when Sandra and her husband, David Pady, purchased a 100-acre farm outside of Guelph, Ontario, that she could make her dream of rescuing animals a reality.

Sandra contacted the Joywinds Farm Rare Breeds Conservancy Inc. to learn about rare breeds in need of conservation and also began to educate herself about the fundamentals of farming. David and she read books and spoke with other farmers and breeders of livestock in order to become familiar with modern farming techniques. They also made arrangements with a neighbour to rent out their eastern pasture and soon their land was dotted with grazing sheep.

Then one day, Dudley, their youngest Standard poodle, inadvertently killed one of the lambs while playing. Sandra was devastated. Concerned about the welfare of the remaining sheep, she telephoned Jy Chiperzack, founder of the Rare Breeds Conservancy, who told her that some donkeys have been known to be effective guardians of sheep if they have bonded with the animals. As a result, David and Sandra agreed to foster three of the Conservancy’s donkeys.

From the first day that Riley, Bronwyn and Apache trotted into her life, Sandra was captivated. She could not get enough of the donkeys’ gentle stillness and soothing, restful presence, and found herself spending more and more time with them.

Sandra’s first opportunity to rescue a donkey came unexpectedly. A neighbouring farmer had bought a donkey to guard a herd of goats. When the little donkey proved to be an ineffective guardian, the farmer saw no use for him and confined him to a stall, where he remained, lonely and despondent.

When Sandra learned about the donkey, she arranged to purchase him. Thus, Sebastian became the first donkey to be rescued by what was to become the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC). He was not, however, to be the last.

Shortly after, she was informed about nine donkeys slated for an equine auction. When Sandra was told that these donkeys would be sold to a slaughterhouse if no other buyer appeared, she took them in as well.

Initially, Sandra had not considered the possibility of their farm becoming a sanctuary. It was only after friends mentioned there were several donkey sanctuaries in England that she started to research them and to write letters requesting information. Dr. Elizabeth Svendsen, founder of The Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain - the world’s largest donkey sanctuary - replied immediately to Sandra’s queries, encouraging her to start a sanctuary in Canada. In addition, Dr. Svendsen provided helpful advice about organization and fundraising.

The DSC is modeled after The Donkey Sanctuary in Great Britain. To date, 222 equines have been given a lifelong home under the protection of the DSC, while thousands of visitors arrive each year to spend time with the donkeys and learn about their unique personalities and gentle, winning ways.

Find Sandra's blog here. 

Sandra and Donkeys

To provide a lifelong home to donkeys, mules and hinnies who are unwanted, neglected or abused, or whose owners can no longer care for them; and to promote the responsible stewardship of all animals through humane education.


We envision a world in which the dignity and worth of all creatures are recognized and respected.

We grant to every animal admitted:
- Peace, freedom and protection
- The best possible care and medical attention
- The right of life regardless of age or condition
- A dignified, peaceful death, induced only in the event of extreme suffering and the loss of quality of life

We work to uphold the Five Freedoms:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress

Chair:  Elaine Crossland

Vice-Chair: Colleen Morrow

Secretary: Paula Stanghetta

Treasurer: Brooke Billings


  • Dr. Katrina Merkies 
  • Marilyn Murphy
  • Lena Levison
  • Joanna Raymond
  • Renata Rusiniak

Ex Officio:

  • Lesley Bayne ( Executive Director)

At the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, we have full-time staff members and a number of part-time staff members. Our staff work their regular hours, and donate a great deal of their time to the DSC as well. 

Executive Director: Lesley Bayne

Fund Development Manager: 

Facilities Manager: Brendan Cole

Office Manager: Natalie Pagnan

Stewardship Officer: Martina Brown

Manager, Long Ears Boutique: Lyse van Arragon

Donkey Welfare and Education Manager: Kayla Johnson

Animal Care - Medical and Barns: Jessie Doxey

Animal Care - Animal Trainer: Grace Paura

Animal Care Assistant: Julia Casey

Educational Assistant: Janine Holman

Volunteer & Events Coordinator: Kishori Opatha

Q: Will I be able to explore the barnyard and paddock areas?

A: Yes, we invite you to walk down the lane (from the parking area) into the barn and barnyard areas, and to stay as long as you wish. DSC Staff and Volunteers will be on hand to cheerfully tell you about our work and to answer any questions.


Q: Will my children enjoy a visit to the DSC?

A: Absolutely. There is much for young people to enjoy at the DSC, as well as much for them to learn about the care and humane treatment of animals. We do request, however, that all children be under the direct supervision of an adult at all times. It is difficult for the animals to see little bodies. In addition, please note that strollers and wagons are not permitted in the barnyard area.


Q: May I bring my dog when I visit?

A: Dogs are permitted only in the picnic and parking areas and trails, and must be on a lead at all times. Dogs are not permitted in the barn or barnyard areas.  If you visit with a group of people and choose to bring your dog, a member of your party will be asked to stay with your dog outside the barnyard areas. Please do not leave your pet in a hot car.


Q: What is appropriate footwear for my visit to the Sanctuary?

A: You will be in a barnyard setting with loose animals, and you may encounter wet and/or uneven terrain. We suggest that you wear close-toed shoes, ideally boots or sneakers.


Q: What should I wear/bring with me?

A: The DSC is a working farm, so come prepared for an outdoor experience: we recommend sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate clothing for the weather. If you have outdoor allergies (pollen, animal dander, bees, etc.) come prepared to treat these if necessary.


Q: Will I be able to feed the animals?

A: No, please do not attempt to feed the donkeys or mules, as it encourages them to expect treats from everyone, and may cause them to nip at people. As well, equines as a rule have a hard time distinguishing between carrots and fingers - we'll leave it to you to imagine the risk involved.


Q: May I bring treats for the animals?

A: No, our animals are on very strict diets, and treats such as carrots and apples are given sparingly. If you'd like to bring gifts for the donkeys, we always have a use for supplies such as heavy-duty duct tape (a farm staple) hand sanitizer, and white vinegar.


Q: Can I/my children ride the donkeys?

A: No, our sanctuary serves as a safe place for our animals, and for that reason, our donkeys are never ridden. Concerns about physical and emotional impact on the donkeys, as well as visitor safety, make the DSC an unsuitable facility for donkey riding.


Q: Can I bring a picnic and stay for the afternoon?

A: Certainly - we have picnic tables available, which overlook the pond. And of course, you may spread your picnic blanket on the hillside if that's more your fancy. However, for insurance reasons, there is no swimming or wading and please do not use the private dock.


Q: Are there trails to explore at the Sanctuary?

A: Yes! Our walking trails are located in the northerly section of the Farm. Note that the trails are not paved and in some sections there will be climbing involved. The Ring Walk is the most level of the trails.


Q: Will I be able to take home some kind of memento of my visit?

A: We do hope so - visit our Long Ears Boutique to discover lots of interesting and wonderful donkey-related, and DSC-related items for sale. All proceeds from items purchased in the boutique of course go toward the care of the animals. You can pay by cash, cheque, Debit, VISA or MasterCard. 


Q: If I can't come on a scheduled Open Day, can I just drop by for a visit on another day? (I promise not to be a nuisance.)

A: No, the DSC is a working farm, and to keep costs down (so we can spend more on the animals) we have only a few staff members. They have a lot of work to do each day, giving medications, cleaning the barnyard, and attending to the animals' needs. On days we’re not open to the public, we use the time for private tours, haying, farm maintenance, veterinary and farrier treatments, and other big jobs, and we like to be able to do so uninterrupted. The farm is also home for two private residences. Please respect their privacy and our hours of operation.


Q: What do I do if I suspect a donkey/mule is bring abused or neglected?

A: Contact the OSPCA by calling 310-SPCA or 1-888-668-7722 ext. 327. You can also email cruelty@ospca.on.ca or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Animal Centre, Affiliated SPCA, Humane Society, or the Police. 


Our last annual reports are available as PDFs to interested parties, simple click to download the files below:

DSC Annual Report 2021 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2020 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2019 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2018 (PDF)

DSC Financial Statements 2018 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2017 (PDF)

DSC Financial Statements 2017 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2016 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2015 (PDF)

DSC Annual Report 2014 (PDF)

DSC Annual General Meeting – TBD