Nope, for once this isn't about America's obesity crisis.
Quick, which American equine is the least desireable?
If you answered donkey/ass/burro, you just won the grand prize: 2,000 free donkeys. Can't take 'em? Neither can anyone else.
In the past three years, droughts, wildfires and flooding have devastated many middle/western states. Texas in particularly was hard-hit. Now, Indiana and Illinois farmers are shredding what little corn they have left just to feed their cattle. Hay is non-existant in many places. Colorado, of course, is on fire, Louisiana is in a drought crisis, eastern Iowa looks like a desert... basically, over half of the country looks like burned dog shit. It's officially the largest drought since 1956.
America: More brown than the infamous "tanning mom"
The animals suffer, of course-- but some suffer more than others. The underfed cattle at least got sold, once ranchers ran out of feed-- a quick death. Many horses were, and still are, being sold, given away, abandoned or even starved, but there's something about horses that make them slightly more recession-proof. They're more romantic, rideable, pretty, valuable and more recognizeable (so you can't dump them anonymously as easily). Everyone who ever read "Black Beauty" is at least inclined to call the police about any starving horses they see. Plus, there's always the French meat market as a last resort.
For donkeys, however, there are absolutely no options. Nobody, not even a Frenchman, wants to eata donkey. Auction houses in Texas are now absolutely refusing to even accept donkeys in the ring, because no one bids on them. The few people that are in a position to adopt right now usually want a rideable equine, or at least one without a reputation for stubborness. So what happens? The donkeys get dumped. Literally, on the side of the road, dumped.
It's such a crisis in America that western sherrif departments now say it's common for people to actually sneak onto other ranchers' lands in order to dump donkeys. I can't imagine being so desperate as to try to sneak a pack of donkeys anywhere, but that's how bad things are. And we're just talking about relatively tame, domesticated donkeys here-- can you imagine how badly the wild burros are suffering?
So what can you do to help?
Adopt a donkey from your local equine rescue, or even from an out-of-state rescue.
Spread awareness on your blog, Facebook, website, Twitter, etc.
Volunteer at a local horse or donkey sanctuary (Holy Land Donkeys is just one in Wisconsin).
Finally, you can educate yourself, and others, about donkeys. Many myths and bad stereotypes prevent donkeys from finding good homes. They are not stubborn, mean or nasty-- they're intelligent, adaptable, wary and independent. The PVDR has a great FAQ here. I had no idea donkeys carried their foals for a full year! Or that the word "donkey" comes from the old English words for "dun" (the grey color) and "ky" (meaning little). Neat stuff. PVDR also has this cute fan-made video. Enjoy: