Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Local non-profit works to rescue donkeys


C.M. Swanson

Kym Garvey and Trinity, her daughter and right-hand-woman on the farm.

If you sit with Kym Garvey in her residence located on 16 acres in Barnum, you are highly likely to hear more than one bray of a donkey. The majority of the land is fenced to hold 13 donkeys that currently reside at Save The Brays Donkey Rescue, a non-profit organization Garvey established in 2016.

"We are the only registered non-profit donkey rescue in Minnesota," said Garvey. "There are other rescue facilities that take animals like horses and dogs, that take donkeys as well, but our services are exclusively for donkeys."

Garvey is on a quest to educate the public to the plight of these helpful equine. Not only are they the most abused animal in the world, but the popularization of medical products derived from their hides is starting to wipe out the world population of donkeys.

The headline of a January 2017 article posted online to The Guardian, authored by Katherine Purvis, reads, "China's demand for medicine fuels African donkey slaughter." In the article, Emma Farrant, president of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, explains donkey hides are boiled down to create a product called ejiao, a "blood tonic" for conditions such as anemia, heavy periods and dry, irritating coughs.

Garvey notes that only the hide is used to make the product. The rest of the donkey goes to waste.

"The Chinese have had this product for thousands of years that was used only by emperors and the wealthy," said Garvey. "It has now become more popular among the general public. They can't keep up with demand. Now China is importing donkeys from other countries."

The article, "Donkeys Are Under Worldwide Threat," by Kristen Kovatch, posted online at, opens stating, "A donkey holocaust is under way around the world. The carnage began in China and now extends to nearly every continent on earth." The article goes on to say four to 10 million donkey hides are currently processed a year for this purpose.

Another point of education Garvey expounds upon is the equine slaughter pipeline. In the United States, where horses are more popular, Garvey said donkeys are commonly let to roam unattended in a farmer's field. Owners may forget donkeys need their feet trimmed or to be dewormed for parasites.

Donkeys often end up at auction. Too frequently donkeys are obtained by kill buyers who purchase animals as cheaply as possible with the intent to sell them to slaughterhouses, often in Mexico.

"Most people who bring their animals to an auction don't know what is going to happen to them," said Garvey. "There are many animals that actually have been on the race track, and have won thousands of dollars, but still end up in an auction. People's show ponies can end up at auction."

Not all animals purchased by kill buyers are from auctions.

"If you offer a free animal, many times that's who is going to scoop it up," said Garvey.

Donkeys are then put into crowded holding pens until the buyer amasses a large shipment.

"Usually they have no food or water for them while they're traveling," said Garvey. "They are in overcrowded trailers, scared, many injured or sick. They have everything from babies to adult stallions together. It's a very stressful journey."

In an online article at, "Extreme cruelty to horses at Mercado San Bernabe – Enforce Existing Federal Laws in Mexico," Judy Levy states of the San Bernabe Livestock Market and Slaughter House, "It makes a mockery of humanity and is one of the most shameful examples of animal brutality and ill health in Mexico."

One process for Garvey to get the word out to the public about saving donkeys, and to raise funds for her non-profit, is to hold public events and fundraisers. One such event is taking place from June 13-18. Garvey and three other women, Verlena Jones, Gale Lance and Susan Oswood, will walk 100 miles, at 20 miles a day, with four donkeys, Ida, Daisy, Jack and Pebbles.

The walk will commence at Save The Brays Donkey Rescue in Barnum. Women and donkeys will camp along the route, ending with a meet and greet at the Grantsburg Fairgrounds in Wisconsin, where the public can see the donkeys and ask questions of the walkers.

"We also want to show the public what donkeys can do," said Garvey. "On our walk the donkeys are going to be carrying all our equipment. They'll have packs and saddles. They are very good trail walkers."

Garvey noted that donkeys are also excellent therapy animals due to their sensitivity and ability to pick up on human emotions.

"Donkeys are calm and gentle around children," said Garvey. "They can sense that innocence."

While the 100-mile walk is meant to raise public awareness for the plight of donkeys, and to raise funds for the non-profit, it will also be an adventure for the participants.

"It's going to be a personal journey for all of us," said Garvey.

At present, 98 percent of Save The Brays Donkey Rescue funding comes from Garvey and her husband's income from their day jobs. Donovan, her husband, is a sous chef at Seven Fires Steak House at Black Bear Casino. Kym, a pyrography (wood burning) artist has an online presence, Kyms Korner on Facebook.

For more information about Save The Brays Donkey Rescue, contact Garvey at or visit Save the Brays Donkey Rescue on Facebook.


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