$10,000 to care for the aging 'Shrek' donkey and friends? One Palo Alto council member says neigh

Whoo, look at that — the Barron Park Donkeys of Palo Alto are about to come into a bit of government money.

The mayor and the City Council of the Northern California city decided last week to contribute a $10,000 matching grant to the group that cares for a trio of asses — including one special donkey on which the "Shrek" movie character named Donkey was modeled — that live on a one-acre pasture in Bol Park. The animals' upkeep has gotten more costly as they've aged, and the group took on a third donkey last year, said Jenny Kiratli, the lead donkey handler.

Whereas the donkeys could be taken care of for an annual budget of about $12,000 to $15,000 just a few years ago, the addition of the third donkey and new medical conditions that have cropped up have raised expenses to as much as $40,000 per year, Kiratli said.

"People visit the donkeys because it’s a calm place to go. The world makes sense when you're there," Kiratli said.

Although the friendly creatures have a lot of support in the community, one Palo Alto council member opposed the grant because the city is facing a budget crunch.

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"I have to object to giving $10,000 away because, you know, the city is losing money," Councilmember Greg Tanaka said. "We have a deficit for the next four years or so. It just seems irresponsible, in my opinion, so I don't support this and I don't think we should be doing this right now."

But Palo Alto Mayor Greer Stone responded that the donation comes from the City Council's contingency fund, which has $77,000 left to spend.

If the council does not spend the money before July 1, it won't roll over into the next fiscal year, he said.

The oldest donkey of the bunch is Perry, who turns 30 on Sunday.

Although many say Perry is the inspiration for the character Donkey from "Shrek," Kiratli said the story is a bit more complicated.

The Shrek creators had begun to design Donkey, but they needed to study the movement of an actual donkey to make the character as real as possible.

The wife of one of the animators often walked past Bol Park and the donkeys that lived there, and she told her husband about it.

A group of 10 to 15 animators went to Bol Park and studied Perry, then just about 5 years old, and his movements were incorporated into the design of Donkey.

Much older now, Perry spends his time grazing with Buddy, 24, and April, 15.

"There is something very therapeutic about donkeys. It’s a break from the stresses and the pace of Silicon Valley," Kiratli said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.