There are many heroes for animals among the more than 6.5 million PETA members and supporters around the world, and some are doing some truly phenomenal things. One of our precious heroes is Ugo Sap, a PETA Vanguard Society member whose generous support for more than two decades has made a whale of a difference in the lives of so many donkeys and other animals.

Ugo is a world-renowned residential architect who is committed to “putting the animals first,” a philosophy that’s cost him some friends and invitations from clients, but he knows it’s far more important to retain that special place in his heart for animals, particularly his “children,” the donkeys.

His passion for helping donkeys blossomed in the early ’90s, following a weekend trip to a sanctuary. There, he met two rescued donkeys, and after one look into their huge, friendly eyes, he “felt the connection” and fell “madly in love with them.” Ugo was already personally committed to “always take care of the underdog,” so naturally, he soon whisked those lucky donkeys off to California to become the first residents of his own beautiful sanctuary nestled among the verdant hills north of Silicon Valley.

Today, his Eagle-Eye Sanctuary Foundation is a loving, safe haven for more than 105 donkeys as well as a few mules and other animals, like Uga, a pig who brings him gifts from the garden. At the sanctuary, all animals are welcomed, treated with love, and never harmed—that includes rattlesnakes and visiting hummingbirds who occasionally pause to sit on Ugo’s fingers.

One of Ugo’s proudest moments occurred while working on two architectural projects in Hawaii.

That was where he learned that some 600 donkeys had been turned loose after a lifetime of toiling away on the island’s coffee plantations. Ugo worked quickly to place many of them in responsible homes across Hawaii, and he chartered a Boeing 747 to transport 125 of these long-suffering angels to sanctuary homes on the mainland. Today, 18 of those donkeys are still living happily at his sanctuary.

Donkeys are “amazing, kind animals,” Ugo says, and the more of them he met, the more frustrated he became with anyone who would consider the “smartest animals he knows” as “beasts of burden.” He had always loved what PETA stands for and decided that his financial support would be a powerful way to “make a big difference in animal lives.” Indeed, it is!

Through Ugo’s generous contributions to PETA and Animal Rahat—a PETA-supported organization that helps working animals in India—he’s given hope to well over 100 animals like Lavender, a young donkey whose namesake was a beloved part of Ugo’s life for years and who would have endured a terrible fate without intervention.

Lavender’s mother spent long days struggling to haul massive loads at one of India’s many brick kilns. For years, she strained to carry more than 200 pounds of bricks at a time in the scorching heat without sufficient rest, food, or water to sustain her. It’s such an exhausting ordeal that donkeys sometimes drop dead from overwork. Thankfully, she survived long enough to be swapped for a tractor through Animal Rahat’s mechanization program. During her post-rescue exam, an Animal Rahat veterinarian discovered that she was pregnant, and almost immediately, she gave birth to a precious foal: Lavender. Thanks to Ugo’s support of Animal Rahat, today, Lavender plays and grazes in lush sanctuary fields with her loving mother.

Time and again, Ugo has proved to be a strong advocate for donkeys and other animals. Today, his support is helping to create a new sanctuary in the beautiful Nilgiri Hills in India.

When a PETA Asia investigation in Petra, Jordan, found hundreds of donkeys—many malnourished, lame, abused, and forced to climb up 900 crumbling stone steps with tourists on their backs—Ugo helped there, too. We set up a clinic for them, and he provided 500 soft harnesses to prevent the painful face wounds caused by the awful chain harnesses used by callous owners. A donkey named Buzz—because he had been deliberately tased and arrived in terrible pain—has been rescued, thanks to Ugo’s generosity.

For donkeys and for PETA, Ugo is a hero—and we’re so thankful for and appreciative of his personal commitment to stopping the exploitation and abuse of donkeys.