MALVERN – An animal adoption center devoted to the rescue of abandoned and neglected donkeys is up and running in Mills County.
Rural Malvern residents Scott and Lura Shehan took in their first donkey two years ago and have been charmed by the animals ever since.
“Lu and I moved out to Malvern with the intent of doing some type of rescue operation,” Scott Shehan said. “When we got here, we were thinking about horses, but we only have eight acres and we noticed that Hooves and Paws was already on Highway 34.
“ What really got us to the donkey thing is that we went to Wahoo (Neb.) for a barn sale with the car with the intent of just looking. There was a donkey out there that was all skinny and emaciated. Lu looked at me and said, ‘We’re not leaving without that donkey coming home with us.’ We stayed there until about midnight and bought the donkey.”
Shehan returned to Wahoo the next day with a horse trailer and picked up the donkey.
“Nester was basically our first rescue,” he said.
The Shehans’ Lusco Farms operation at 32295 Lambert Road recently became an adoption center for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, the largest donkey rescue operation in the United States. Later this week, Peaceful Valley will be delivering six animals to Lusco Farms, including two that were among 120 wild donkeys rescued and airlifted from the state of Hawaii in September.
“Peaceful Valley currently has over 2,000 donkeys in its system,” Shehan said. “Their main headquarters are in California and Texas and they have satellite centers, like ours, in different areas of the country.”
Shehan said there are large populations of wild donkeys in several
southwestern states and Hawaii. Drought in Hawaii and states like California and Texas have created a growing need for donkey rescue efforts.
“A lot of donkeys are coming out of the wild into the cities, like the deer are doing around here and it’s becoming a problem. People are even hitting them with their vehicles,” he said. “Legislation is being considered in Texas to allow ranchers to shoot donkeys.”
Shehan said not all donkeys rescued by Peaceful Valley are wild. Some are domesticated, but have been neglected or abandoned.
As a satellite center for Peaceful Valley, Lusco Farms’ job is to nurture the animals to good health, domesticate them and find suitable homes for adoption.
“This place isn’t intended to be a
permanent home for the donkeys,” he said.
Shehan said a donkey can be the perfect
animal for the right person or family.
“Around here, I think there are a lot of people who have had equine (horses) before, but they’re not at the age or have the lifestyle where they want to ride anymore, but they like the companionship of an equine.
“Donkeys are pretty self sufficient. They don’t require grain or feed. All they really require is some good grass hay and fresh water. They’ll maintain themselves. Even their hooves don’t need to be trimmed as much as a horse.”
Shehan said donkeys are also good companion animals for horses.
“Maybe somebody had two horses and one of them passed away. Donkeys are a really good babysitter, actually.
“Those are the kind of adoptive families we’re looking for, or somebody that’s got a small acreage like we do and doesn’t have a lot of pasture. A donkey only needs a minimum of 24-foot by 24-foot area.”
Shehan said the donkeys, including those rescued from Hawaii, will acclimate themselves to Iowa’s changing
Shehan said he and his wife aren’t running Lusco Farms as a
“When you’re doing animal rescue, it’s a business of love,” Shehan said.
Lusco Farms is
hosting an open house Sunday, Oct. 30, from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Additional information about
the Shehans’ facility can be found online at
Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue also has its own website - www.donkeyrescue.org.