It’s not uncommon for viewers watching a little TV to click upon a public service announcement from the SPCA, PETA or other animal rights organizations that speak for a vast group that literally has no voice.
The public well knows of the altruism of these organizations that support animals, which are usually house pets that have been denied a fair shake in life — or worse.
But where might these viewers and citizens turn when they become aware of a neglected horse, an out-of-control monkey, an unloved bunny or a sick sugar glider?
Interestingly, there are local rescues that cater to the needs of virtually any animal in distress — yes, even wild animals — and drastically improve their lives, just as they can (and do) for traditionally domesticated pets like L’il Sparky, Miss Kitty, Tweety or Hopalong.
A Big Job
The equine community, said Caroline Robertson, development director of the Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, “has different needs than other rescues, in that we only receive horses that are impounded by animal control in Maryland’s counties.”
On-site recently were 65 horses (the facility can accommodate 90) on multiple fields spread among the 58 acres at the West County farm, along with 17 staff members and a whopping “1,500 volunteers of a various talents,” Robertson said, noting Days End’s focus on criminal cases that involve neglect and abuse.
One the rescue receives and impounds the horses, they are “vetted out” (sent to the veterinarian), and also visit the dentist and farrier (the podiatrist), she said. “Then they go through our rehabilitation program for specialized feeding and medical treatment. Next, because they’re cruelty cases and considered wards of the state, they’re documented in the courts so we can testify in court on their behalf.”
After that process is completed, the horses are awarded to Days End and enter its training program.
“Due to their size and nature, the program is vital to re-homing them,” Robertson said. “That’s different from dogs and cats, because horses are harder to place. Once we rehome one, it creates a spot for another horse.”
As one might hypothesize, this process isn’t cheap: Days End’s annual budget is $1.4 million and is garnered via grants from various foundations and gifts from individual donors and other organizations. Robertson said that “88 cents of every donor dollar goes straight back into our mission,” with the rest of the money going to the staff.
The majority of the major donors are Maryland-based. “We’re basically the equine pound for the state,” she said. “We’re a diamond in the rough, in that many people don’t fully realize what we do.”
As for the toll the recession and its aftermath have taken on families who suddenly found pets too expensive to house and maintain, she said Days End has “seen an increase in intake during the past couple of years — but not in the way one might think. “We see [the issue] at the tail-end of the process,” she said, “not when people start having trouble, but when there has been obvious trouble for months or years.”
The trend has been noted at Frisky’s Wildlife & Primate Sanctuary in Woodstock, where Founder/Director Colleen Layton-Robbins serves nature as a master wildlife rehabilitator, “with many licenses and permits, but not as a vet,” she said. “Yet, we do what a vet does. We have to be home-based, by law.”
The sanctuary operates on three “spheres,” she said. The first concerns the rehabilitation of wild animals that have been injured, “so we do triage/first aid to get them stabilized,” she said, while making sure that those “who cross the bridge to be with God are in caring hands.”
Secondly is the rehab of illegal exotic pets, such as alligators (“usually little guys who were in some kind of pet trade,” she said), prairie dogs, monkeys, coatimundi (that’s a South American raccoon) “or whatever.”
The third sphere is caring for “exotic” (meaning anything but a dog or cat) house pets that are given up, which has occurred “on a more frequent basis” during the down economy, she added — like chinchillas, rabbits, sugar gliders, cockatoos, parakeets, etc.
Layton-Robbins pointed out that special licenses are required by the state for each species. “We are a lifetime sanctuary for the monkeys and coatimundis, for example, which are illegal as pets because they are exotic wildlife, and they can be a little moody,” she said, “unless we can find another appropriate licensed facility that also has large indoor and outdoor enclosures.”
As for the more mainstream animals, Frisky’s just sent six exotic birds to the vet so the staff can ensure their health before adoption, which can take place via personal visits, newsletters or Petfinders.com.
As for funding, it comes from the general public. Period.
“Some people that bring an animal here leave a donation as well, but half don’t,” said Layton-Robbins. “Many times, when we send out the newsletter and say what we need, people make in-kind donations such as blankets, cleaning supplies, exotic bird food and occasionally money.”
So while Frisky’s doesn’t receive grants or any government funding, her husband “works 60 hours a week, and some of our family money goes into the business,” she said. That’s not unusual among rescues.
“We’ve tried to get a grant on more than one occasion from the Snyder Foundation (of Baltimore, which helps fund animal rescues),” Layton-Robbins said, “but we were unsuccessful.”
When Robin Deltuva, director of the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) of Howard County, in Columbia, goes to pick up an animal or has a pet transported to its tiny facility on Davis Road (next to Howard County Animal Control), she’s glad that she still has room to care for it.
So it’s good that Deltuva “hasn’t seen much of an increase in the number of pets” that need the society’s services as a result of the bad economy.
She noted AWS was “Howard County’s first original shelter building,” which opened in 1944, and that it gets its funding from donations and volunteers. “We don’t apply for grants here,” she said, adding that she’s unsure of the shelter’s budget. “We’re too busy caring for pets. I’m hands-on.”
Those pets are often dogs and cats, but can also be pigs and chinchillas, on a given day. “We take anything I can help,” Deltuva said, noting the recent case of a sugar glider.
AWS offers low-cost spaying and neutering, as well as vaccine clinics, to help keep many more animals from ending up in the bad situations that created a need for the shelter. “We rescue pets off of death row, so every pet here was going to be killed,” she said. At any time, it may house anywhere from 15 to 60 dogs/puppies and about 30 cats/kittens, plus miscellaneous creatures like bunnies, ducks, ferrets and birds.
Today, she’s trying to figure out how to expand the shelter so it can better serve the pets and the public. “We’d have to build that here on this historic landmark,” she said, “and we can’t afford to.”
While their approaches may differ, the goals of AWS, Frisky’s and Days End are the same.
“We just help get the pets the [medical care] and services they need” at the shelter, Deltuva said, “so we can educate our clients and get the pets ready for adoption to a safe, loving home.”