Prevalence of mutilations and other skin wounds in working donkeys in Tamil Nadu, India

Emma L. Rayner*, Ilona Airikkala-Otter, Aswin Susheelan, Richard J. Mellanby, Natascha V. Meunier, Andrew Gibson, Luke Gamble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Wounds in working donkeys are a common and preventable welfare problem in many countries. Mutilations, iatrogenic injuries carried out by owners, are a particularly distressing welfare issue. However, little is known about their nature and prevalence. The project aim was to assess the general health and establish the prevalence, nature and severity of mutilations and other skin wounds in donkeys from several communities in Tamil Nadu, India, that were part of a donkey welfare initiative run by the Worldwide Veterinary Service charity. Five hundred and eighty-two donkeys were examined from five locations and data collected using a predesigned, smartphone app between October 2016 and July 2017. The study revealed that 298 wounds were present in a total of 227 donkeys (39.0 per cent of the population). Mutilations, comprising nose-splitting, ear-splitting and branding, were the most common type of skin wound, comprising 62.8 per cent of all wounds. Poorly fitting harnesses and hobbles were also a common cause of injury. These data can be used to design future-targeted and focused, educational interventions to reduce mutilation practices which are a common and important welfare issue. Further outreach initiatives are urgently needed to improve welfare of donkeys in these regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450
Number of pages1
JournalVeterinary Record
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding This study was funded by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF). AWF is a fund-raising and grant-giving charity (charity number 287118) directed by the veterinary professions, which uses veterinary knowledge to improve the welfare of all animals through science, education and debate. More information can be found at The WVS donkey health camps were made possible through funding from the Welttierschutzgesellschaft E.V. (WTG). More information can be found at Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding bodies.

Publisher Copyright:
© © British Veterinary Association (unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted.


  • donkeys
  • welfare
  • wound management


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