Today’s November Giving Nomination is Valerie Lowe and Cheryl Pokorny of Little Longears Miniature Donkey Rescue – submitted by Jane M. Olvera

This letter is a response to The Equiery’s solicitation for nominations of individuals and/or horses that have made an impact on Maryland’s equine community. I nominate Valerie Lowe and Cheryl Pokorny, co-founders and, respectively, President and Vice President of Little Longears Miniature Donkey Rescue, located in Westminster.  Little Longears is a non-profit, 501(c) public charity.

Arguably the least-appreciated of the equine world, donkeys are intelligent and social – and often neglected and abused.  Ms. Lowe and Ms. Pokorny focus on eliminating the latter two circumstances through their rescue and ongoing education efforts.

Seven years ago, Ms. Lowe, a retired A-circuit hunter/jumper rider and trainer, and Ms. Pokorny, an educator, acquired two donkeys as companions for the retired show jumpers on their farm.  Not only were the people charmed by the donkeys, but so were the horses. Each horse instantly wanted its own donkey!  As they researched and learned more about donkeys, they became aware of the underside of the equine world, and of the grim fate that awaits many unwanted horses, mules and donkeys.  In response, they launched Little Longears Mini Donkey Rescue in 2013 as a non-profit, 501(c) charity.  Little Longears focuses on rescuing miniature donkeys, but they also rescue standard and mammoth donkeys, mules and – occasionally – horses.

Owner surrenders, auctions and seizures by animal protection agencies provide the source of the equines that are lucky enough to end up at Little Longears. Many of the rescued donkeys are in sad shape. Obesity, deplorable hoof care, laminitis/founder and psychological issues are chief among the problems that the rescue addresses, although disease, malnutrition and starvation are not uncommon. Rehabilitation includes veterinary, dental, and farrier care, as well as socialization and training. On any given day, between 40 and 60 donkeys may reside at the rescue. Owner surrenders have become increasingly common for a variety of reasons, such as aging owners, loss of interest or difficult financial circumstances. Little Longears has a long waiting list of donkeys offered for surrender, which highlights the urgent need for rescue. Rehabilitated donkeys are available for adoption into responsible, loving homes, but those with special needs remain at Little Longears in sanctuary.

Additionally, Ms. Lowe and Ms. Pokorny hosted their first “Donkey Education Day” at the farm in May 2019, reaching an audience of about 50 people seeking information and advice on caring for donkeys and mules. Little Longears also has made appearances at Carroll County public libraries, offering programs to inform and educate the public about these often misunderstood members of the equine family.

Little Longears is one of the very few miniature donkey rescues on the East Coast, and among the few donkey rescues in the United States.

In June 2019, Little Longears was verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the only globally-recognized organization providing standards for identifying legitimate animal sanctuaries. GFAS verification means that the organization meets rigorous requirements in animal care as well as ethical and operational principles.

I have volunteered at Little Longears since January 2017, and I see firsthand the exceptional level of care provided to the donkeys fortunate enough to come there.  Ms. Lowe and Ms. Pokorny are real-life heroes whose devotion to the needs of donkeys, mules and horses should be recognized.