Presentation of the project It's Donkey Time!

The project

The project aims to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities with donkey-assisted therapy. The therapy donkeys are sponsored by Friends of homeless dogs sponsor program.

Long used in countries like England and France, donkey therapy stimulates handicapped persons and persons with personality disorders. Donkey-assisted therapy provides two types of benefits:

- motor benefits: while riding the animal, the child’s muscles are stimulated by the repetitive movements and regular gait of the donkey.
- emotional benefits: when petting the donkeys, subjects with autism, learning disorders and hyperactivity receive positive psychological stimuli.

Videos of similar projects carried out by Donkey Sanctuary and EST in other countries:


The first ever donkey therapy riding project in Romania was started by Save the Dogs, supported by Friends of homelss dogs. The project started at the Don Orione centre in Bucharest in June 2011. When the project at Don Orione came to an end centre in September 2014, FHD:s sponsor donkeys Claudio, Boss, Ioan and Sile were moved to the donkey sanctuary at Footprints of Joy, in Cernavoda. Save the Dogs is planning new donkey therapy programs in Brasov and Cernavoda.


Donkey therapy project 2011-2014, Don Orione centre, Bucharest


- Fondazione Paideia (Turin - Italy) sponsor
- Save the Dogs (Milan - Italy) project and veterinary care co-ordinator
- Friends of Homeless Dogs (Finland) sponsor
- Elizabeth Svendsen Trust (UK) sponsor
- Don Orione Centre (Bucharest – Ruomania) beneficiary


17 orphans affected by different disabilities: from Downs syndrome to forms of paraplegia/quadriplegia associated with severe mental retardation. Another 17 autistic children visited weekly from other nearby public orphanages.

Description of the activities

The project involved the use of 4 donkeys specifically selected from among the 58 living at the shelter run by STD in Cernavoda. Those most suited to this kind of activity were selected with the assistance of EST. Two of them were involved only in activities of guided interaction with children, while the other two donkeys were trained to be ridden with special equipment by children considered to be fit for this kind of therapy. Furthermore, there was the possibility to hitch up wheelchairs with special trailers allowing the young guests to be taken for a ride on the premises of the centre.

Direct contact between animals and centre residents was limited to 4 hours a day.


1 specialized operator – physiotherapist / kinesitherapist – working part-time
1 person in charge of the care and cleaning of the donkeys (2-3 hours per day)
1 vet who will examine the donkeys on a monthly basis to check their health status and level of stress

During the pet therapy, the specialized operator was accompanied by an educator / assistant of the centre who knew the individual residents and could provide useful guidance on what activities to do with the children.


Activity / subject
Stable and enclosure
Specialized operator (7 EUR/h gross)
Animal keeper (4.2 EUR/h gross)
Therapy equipment
Care of the donkeys (food, medicine etc)
Veterinary assistance
Training of the operators
Total expenses, first year

Timing and responsibilities of the partners

April 2011
Design of the stable (EST och STD)

Recruitment of the specialized operator (STD)

April 2011 - May 2011
Construction of the stable for 4 donkeys (Don Orione och STD)

May 2011
Selection of the donkeys most suited for pet therapy activities (EST och STD)
Transfer of the donkeys to Bucharest (STD)
Training of the specialized operator (EST)
Recruitment of the person in charge of the care of the donkeys (Don Orione)
Training of the person in charge of the care of the donkeys (STD)

June 23rd 2011
Launch of the project

September 2014

The project ended with a mutual agreement, when the management at Don Orione informed Save the Dogs that they no longer could look after the donkeys according to STD:s criteria.

© 2012 Kodittomien koirien ystävät | Hemlösa hundars vänner | Friends of Homeless Dogs |