By Wayne Pacelle
Our expert animal rescue team rescues thousands of dogs, cats and horses every year from dire situations. But what do you do when the animals needing help include camels, bison, and exotic South American rodents?
This was the challenge we faced when The HSUS and other animal groups responded to distress calls from a wildlife sanctuary in western Montana that had lost its bearings, as All Animals writer Karen Lange recounts in an online story today. The sanctuary asked for assistance after it became overwhelmed and could not continue caring for the animals. It’s a not uncommon scenario in the world of sanctuaries, where people pursue their work with the best of intentions, but then often fail to manage the animals adequately, and at times fall short of raising the funds needed to sustain their operations.
There were more than 800 llamas, camels, bison, emus, donkeys, horses and other animals living at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue. Some were allowed to breed, which added to the strain, and the sanctuary did not have enough staff to properly care for the large and diverse population of animals.
When the sanctuary asked the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries for help, it had only enough hay to feed the animals for three more days. The HSUS and a host of other groups then deployed. The federation coordinated the efforts of local group AniMeals, The HSUS, Habitat for Horses, the Montana Animal Care Association, Farm Sanctuary, the Montana Horse Sanctuary, Best Friends Animal Society, and Southeast Llama Rescue.
Sadly, the request for assistance came too late for some of the animals, who died from cold and neglect. The conditions we found on the 400-acre property were tragic. Baby llamas were dying from the cold, adult llamas were severely underweight, downed cows were lying in the ice and snow, and some donkeys and horses could barely walk because their hooves were so overgrown. If the sanctuary had been accredited, these problems could likely have been prevented.
The HSUS/Fund for Animals senior director for wildlife response, Dave Pauli, and our Montana state director, Wendy Hergenraeder, provided much-needed expertise and assistance in placing the remaining animals. The HSUS also provided $20,000 for veterinary care and transport during this unusually large and complex rescue.
We arranged for 33 donkeys and miniature donkeys to receive veterinary care, and we found new homes for camels, emus, bison and several large South American rodents called cavies.
As the Associated Press reported yesterday, all of the animals have now been moved to new homes or foster care. Thanks to the efforts of rescue groups from across the country, more than 800 animals are on their way to better lives.