Not everyone wanted to give little Bella Burro a chance at life.
Two years ago, a couple near Minneapolis rescued the miniature donkey from a negligent breeder, where she had been separated from her mother at two months old and was significantly underweight. Bella had frostbite, which the vet told her new family was so severe they would have to amputate her leg.
Veterinarians recommended putting Bella to sleep, instead of operating.
“They really strongly wanted to put her down,” Ann, one of the donkey’s owners, told The Huffington Post. “Donkeys don’t have any value in society.”
But Ann knew Bella had value.
“I said, ‘Well, she’s still here, she’s still surviving. I don’t want to put her down if she’s still fighting,” she told HuffPost.
Bella was outfitted with a kind of donkey “peg-leg” while her owners sought a more advanced prosthetic leg.
Getting a prosthetic leg for a donkey, especially a growing one, is no easy task, because the demand is low. Her owners were able to get one from Wyoming’s Hanger Clinic -- the same place that provides Winter the dolphin with prosthetic tails -- but that leg would need to be replaced as Bella grew.
For Bella’s adult prosthetic, her owners are enlisting the help of a more local facility, Arise Orthotics, to replicate Hanger’s design.
Prosthetics for equines are still a relatively niche market, for a multitude of reasons. For some, it can be prohibitively expensive -- amputating Bella’s leg cost about $10,000, and a prosthetic cost around $2,500 -- and many people don’t realize that equine prosthetics are even an option. Some critics even claim that euthanizing an equine is more humane, saving them the stress of surgery.
But Ann said that’s certainly not the case for Bella, who now lives a carefree life running, playing, eating and spending time with her best friends, two Nigerian dwarf goats.
“She’s so happy,” Ann said. “She literally does not know she doesn’t have a leg.”
Bella also brings a lot of happiness to the people that she meets.
“She’s super sweet,” Ann explained. “She loves people, she loves affection. She’s very used to having people ‘hands-on’ because she’s had that her whole life … she’s pretty popular around here.” Bella’s even met a few children with disabilities, who have taken "a lot of encouragement" from the donkey's tale, Ann added.
Most of all, Ann wants others to know that an injury doesn’t have to be a death sentence for an animal.
“She has a story to tell,” she said. “There are other options out there for animals, for disabled animals, they do very well, they thrive.”
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