In this paper, the management and health problems of donkeys on loan to independent carers from The Donkey Sanctuary are characterised, and the demographics of the UK’s donkey population are described using data from a variety of sources. All carers that fostered a donkey from The Donkey Sanctuary between September 2004 and August 2005 (1432 donkeys) were surveyed using a postal questionnaire requesting information about the donkey, its premises, daily care, health and preventive medicine. The response rate was 77.8 per cent. The mean (sd) age of the donkeys was 20.8 (7.4) years. The majority (92 per cent) of the donkeys were kept as pets. Approximately one-third (33.6 per cent) of the donkeys were overweight. The most common medical problems were hoof, dermal and oral problems. A total of 86 per cent of the donkeys had a dental examination at least every 12 months, and at least 45 per cent had at least one dental problem.