Donkeys Rico and Jack and Their Love Story

It wasn’t love at first sight, not even close.

FFAS rescued Rico from an Oklahoma kill pen in May 2020. For the next 18 months his best friends were humans, lots and lots of them! But donkeys are social animals so in November 2021 FFAS decided to rescue another one to be a companion for Rico. 

It wasn’t long before JD (Jack) was on a transport truck, rescued from a kill pen in Texas.  5 days later he arrived in NY.  He was quarantined for 30 days, separated from Rico by a mesh gate.  He was treated a few times by both the vet and farrier, all under Rico’s watchful eye.  They were curious about each other, but Rico’s ears were pinned back more than we had ever seen.

Donkeys Getting to Know Each other

After quarantine we slowly let Jack in the paddock with Rico.  It was scary!  Rico chased Jack around the paddock, biting his back and generally terrifying him.  It was hard to watch.  We were told that they needed to establish which would be the dominant donkey.  The whole scene was both frightening and sad. We just didn’t know where the line was between normal and dangerous.

Each encounter would last about 10 minutes, which was all we could stand.  This daily ritual lasted 4 weeks. 

Donkey Friendship
Donkeys Meetings

Then one day, the donkeys just started to graze together.

And they grazed and grazed!  They’ve been inseparable ever since.  They eat together, sleep together, lay in the sun together, investigate together and do a lot of nothing together!  That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

This Valentine’s Day we celebrate Rico and Jack, from a place of hopelessness to a place of love and a bond for life!

Donkey Friendship

Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Donkey Rescue

Rescued Donkeys have a Loving Home at FFAS

Our mission at the Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary is to provide a safe and permanent environment for donkeys rescued from abusive, neglectful, and dangerous situations. We work hard to to save these incredible animals while educating the public so we can create a safer, more sustainable future for them.  

Our first rescued donkey, Rico, has been a huge success. Rico was saved from a kill pen in Oklahoma. He had severe injuries and was labeled a hopeless case. We provided him with critical veterinary care funded by donations from supporters like you. Along with patience and love, Rico was rehabilitated and now loves the companionship of people.

Why is Donkey Rescue Urgent Now?

Donkey rescue is more important now than ever. A recent rise in the slaughter of donkeys for their hides has led to underpopulation in some countries. In China, where the gelatin from donkey hides is used to make a traditional medicine (known as ejiao), the donkey population has been decimated. China is now turning to Mexico and South America to keep up with demand. More and more traders in the United States are selling donkeys to Mexico, who sell them to China and other countries to be slaughtered.

Donkeys in captivity are often severely mistreated. Their average life span is between 25 – 30 years, although some can live up to 35 years with proper care. This long commitment can lead to abandonment by owners and lack of necessary veterinary services. Many donkeys are overworked as farm animals and left to die in pain.

Donkeys are Widely Misunderstood

There are pervasive stereotypes that they are stubborn animals and are a nuisance for landowners. To the contrary, donkeys are highly intelligent. They make great companions. They can form bonds with other donkeys, horses and other animals, and even people. They are playful and enjoy human interaction. Donkeys also have a high level of emotional intelligence. They can experience emotional anxiety even if they are only separated from their buddy for a short period of time. They are also known to grieve the death of a buddy.

Donkeys are Great Companions and Unique Service Providers

In addition to being great companions, donkeys provide critical and unique services. In some parts of the world, they are essential to farming, construction, and maintaining a clean water supply. Donkeys can create financial independence in impoverished communities. In the United States, donkeys are often used for camping and hiking. They can provide a unique experience and access to mountain trails that would otherwise be insurmountable.

Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary Rescues and Rehabilitates Donkeys

At the Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary, we provide life-changing and life-saving care for these incredible animals. After surviving an abusive or neglectful situation, donkeys need to be healed physically and psychologically so they can trust humans again. This requires patience, time, and love. Rescued donkeys have shown that despite a difficult past, they have much love to offer in return.

Our sponsorship program is an opportunity for you to be involved in saving a donkey’s life. We believe it is our responsibility to show compassion for these incredible animals that have so much to give in return. We hope you will help and sponsor one of these exceptional creatures.

Rico saying hello

Rico the Donkey Learns to Trust

It’s been six months since Lisa Miskella from Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary paid the bail and rescued Rico the donkey from a kill pen* in Oklahoma. 

His fate would have landed in the hands of the highest bidder per pound (kill buyers), maybe bound for Mexico or Canada where they have Equine slaughter houses.  I try not to think about that too much but it’s important that people know what his and many equines’ fate may have been. 

Rico traveled over a thousand miles to get here and when he did, he was terrified of people and extremely cautious. He was the picture of neglect; his hooves were overgrown to the point that his bones are slightly deformed, he was extremely dehydrated, covered in lice and he is blind in one eye. 

Rico before
Rico after

Over the next six months we nursed him back to health with many visits from the Vet and Farrier. We also spent many hours earning his trust. There were many breakthroughs during that time, like when he let me brush him for the first time (I didn’t want to stop), or when he first took a treat (we quickly ran out and bought bags of them), or when he put his head on the barn door looking for a snack.

His first bray was both confusing and exciting as we didn’t know if he was hungry, happy, hurt, hot etc. Turns out it mostly means that he is happy to see us or that he wants attention.

Each first fills us with joy and a feeling of hope for farm animals overall. Unfortunately, farmed animals are unprotected in most places and many are mistreated. Taking care of Rico makes us feel like we’re doing our part to raise awareness and move the needle toward compassion.

There are many firsts yet to happen and when they do, we’ll be ready.

* Kill pens are holding areas where unwanted, discarded and abandoned horses and donkeys are held until they are shipped to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. Many people who send their horses to auction are unaware that they are destined for the kill pen.

About Rico

When I first met Rico the donkey, he was afraid to be touched. After enduring months of abuse and neglect, he would flinch and cower in fear when you approached him.

His hooves were overgrown and his entire body was covered with lice. He was suffering from such severe dehydration that he was urinating blood.

While others may have deemed Rico a “lost cause”, here at Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary I knew we had to help him.

Thanks to generous supporters like you, we were able to rescue Rico from a kill pen in Oklahoma and help him find a safe place to live out his life. He endured a 1000+ mile freedom ride to NY, where he was taken in by one of our board members.

We quickly worked around the clock to get him proper veterinary care, and address the scars and trauma of his abuse. Today, Rico is a completely different donkey. Just hear what our board member, Kathleen, who looks after him has to say.

“We’ve spent countless hours just hanging out with Rico, walking the paddock, talking to him, gardening, feeding him, cleaning up after him and giving him water. He has become quite the character and puts his head on top of the door of the barn when he wants a treat. He even approaches people who come to visit and loves to have his ears rubbed!”​

Funding from supporters like you changed Rico’s life and gave him a second chance. But, I know there will be other Ricos soon, which is why I am asking you for your support today. When you make a donation to Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary, you can help to save and rescue other farm animals like Rico.

Together, we can give animals like Rico a second chance.

Rico before

The before.

The After

Rico after
Rico Relaxing
Rico Barn
Rico saying hello