Oxfordshire fundraisers who are taking their donkeys on an epic 200-mile trip for charity have denied they are treating the animals badly. 

Pilot Polly Vacher MBE is driving her donkeys, Wizard and Muffin, on a month-long adventure going from Didcot to North Wales.

They are aiming to raise £25,000 for the MS Society but recently had to stop for four days to allow Wizard to recover from a sore.

Gigi Nagev, who is a neighbour of Mrs Vacher’s, said she had expressed concerns about this happening to both Polly and the MS Society earlier this year.

She said: “Polly has been subjecting these poor donkeys to a huge amount of overwork in the name of charity and making them do things that she openly admits they don't like doing - like dragging her heavy cart up steep hills, and going through water - donkeys are desert animals and hate water.”

Ms Nagev said she had started a petition protesting against the event which already has over 1,000 signatures. 

READ AGAIN: Donkathon charity ride runs into difficulties as Wizard gets sore

But Carolle Doyle, who has been on the road with the Donkathon, said: “I want to reassure all those that are worried about Wizard and Muffin that they are in very good health indeed. 

“Yes, we stopped for four days because Wizard had a tender spot which was, incidentally, fine after just two days but we had a rest day coming up and decided to take the extra day.” 

She said the donkeys averaged eight miles a day usually finishing by four with at least an hour for lunch when they are unharnessed. In the hot weather they have been stopping frequently and offering them water.
Mrs Doyle said: “Your reader is quite right in that they are desert animals so Polly had raincoats especially made for them. We have only needed to use them twice.”

She said when Mrs Vacher planned the journey she exercised Wizard and Muffin 'five days a week for months, just as athletes train'. 

 “Yes, donkeys are ill-treated sometimes which upsets me as much as your reader,” she said.

Clare Horwood, executive director of Engagement and Income Generation at the MS Society, said the event was not being organised by them. 

She said: “While we always take the safety of our fundraisers and, additionally in this case, the welfare of animals seriously it is for the individuals involved to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place. 

“The donkeys are having regular checks with vets along the route as well as frequent rest stops. 

“We have also sought independent, external advice from a donkey sanctuary charity. We’re as confident as we can be that the animals are being well looked after.”  

The Donkathon finishes on Sunday when the donkeys arrive at St Melangell.