Rescues We Love: Donkey Tales

It all started with one forlorn little donkey.

The plan was that Lura and Scott Shehan were just going to look at some horse tack. Things got sidetracked when Scott’s wife suggested they tour the animal sale barn. That’s when they spotted him.

“He was skinny, scared and the kids were laughing at him,” recalls Scott. “That’s what got to my wife. She said, ‘We are taking him home.’” And they did.

The little fellow they called Nestor (after the hero of a popular children’s television Christmas special) was just the first. The Shehans began their rescue work in 2009, and became a non-profit in 2011. Today, with 81 donkeys and mules rescued, Lusco Farms Rescue in Malvern, Iowa, continues to work diligently to find forever homes for abandoned, neglected or abused equines.

“They are kind of like big dogs,” explains Scott. “They are very inquisitive and they want to be around human beings. They want attention and affection from their humans.”

Just as with dogs and cats, overbreeding is the root cause of too many donkeys. Coupled with a tough economy several years ago, many sale barns were filled with unwanted horses, mules and donkeys.

The Shehans go through a thorough adoption process to make sure their charges end up in greener pastures. Potential adopters have to fill out a form, provide veterinary/farrier references, and provide adequate pasture and shelter for the animals. They also have to ensure that the donkey or mule has a “buddy.” They either need another equine on site, or they have to adopt two donkeys. As herd animals, donkeys need companionship just as much as they need food, water and shelter.


Lura Shehan with one of their rescued donkeys.

The Shehans (and a small core of committed volunteers) work hard to make sure the donkeys and mules are well tended. As co-founders of the Southwest Iowa Animal Coalition, the Shehans work with other area rescues on events such as feral cat spay and neuter programs. They’ve found there is strength in numbers and the rescue groups work together to promote awareness and adoptions.

At Lusco Farms, the work is hard. The donkeys must be handled regularly to learn to accept having their feet handled (regular hoof trimming is a must), pens must be cleaned, and hay and water provided. Lura is up at 4:30 a.m. to do chores; after a full day at work in Omaha, Scott heads home to lend a hand with the dozen plus donkeys currently at the rescue.

That number is ever changing. Scott said they have a waiting list for people who want Lusco Farms to take donkeys. In a recent situation, they took back three donkeys from an adopter whose deteriorating health necessitated giving up her beloved pets.

And Nestor? He was eventually adopted out to a loving family. Scott remembers his wife’s fateful words the night they spotted the long-eared colt.

“She said, ‘His life gets better today.’” And it did.

For more information, or to adopt or help sponsor a donkey, see

Editor’s note: Got aggressive flies going after your equine’s (or canine’s) ears? Fly creams can help keep flies and biting insects at bay.

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