Athens Review, Athens, Texas

July 5, 2013

A story with a kick

County forced to house growing number of donkeys

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

ATHENS — The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the upkeep of stray donkeys picked up around the county, an event that increases in drought or hard economic times.

Henderson County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers often field numerous calls concerning animals on the loose.  Sheriff’s departments in Texas are charged with the responsibility of picking up abandoned livestock and trying to reunite the animals with their owners. The county picked up 19 donkeys between September 2012 and June 2013.

“We have to hold them until we can get some organization to take care of them,” Sheriff Ray Nutt said.  “We can’t take them to the sale barn because it ends up costing us money.”

According to the state statute regarding stray animals, when one wanders onto another person’s property or is loose on the highway, and no owner can be located, the sheriff’s office is required to pick it up. Once the HCSO brings in stray livestock, a notice that the animal is in custody must be posted in a public place.

The sheriff’s office posts notices on the county website as well as pictures of the animals. If the animals are cattle or horses, the owner usually claims it. That’s not the case for donkeys.

“There are times in our county that people decide they can do without their donkeys,” County Judge Richard Sanders said.

An organization in the San Angelo area takes homeless donkeys and cares for them. But they have to stay in the county’s care, at a cost of about $10 a day, until they are picked up.

“They don’t come up here just for one,” Nutt said. “They want to get a load when they make a trip. They like to pick up a bunch of them.”

Donkey sales, when a buyer is found, often don’t bring in enough money to cover the county’s expense. 

Texas law has required that equine, including horses, donkeys and mules, have a test for Equine Infectious Anemia,  also known as “Coggins” or “Swamp Fever,” within 12 months prior to any change of ownership.

The seller usually picks up the cost of the test.