Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome to the HASScienda!

Running a well-organized 501(c)(3) rescue is hard. Not only do you need to have the horse handling skills to rehab horses and increase their training, but you also need to have the business skills to organize fundraising events and create a stream of income that reliably covers expenses. Part of that income stream is composed of adoption fees when animals find a home.

Unfortunately, we have people out there swerving their responsibility to train and adopt out by claiming they are a "sanctuary." You see, their poor traumatized animals could not possibly be well cared for by anybody but them! They have to keep them and you have to give them money so that they can. I recently heard about a classic example of Sanctuary Syndrome when the following e-mail made its way into my in-box:

"Hacienda de los Milagros is out of food for the 200 burros and horses. They did not eat for over a day..Please consider a donation to help feed these animals."

That statement doesn't make me think "send a donation." That statement makes me think, call animal control and get the animals confiscated from the place that has no food for them! (Admittedly, animal control is going to be as excited about taking in 200 burros and horses as I would be about a new part-time job cleaning frat houses...) Look at the
list of animals. Yeesh. (And why are so many "born here?" Please tell me these were pregnant animals you adopted and you aren't allowing them to breed. I am scared given the numbers of intact jacks. Why is anything intact?) HDLM claims their operating costs are $33,000 a month.

OK, everybody. Who the hell saddles themselves with something that
costs $33,000 a month and produces zero reliable income? What kills me is that the guy running this is a former business consultant with a law degree. Buddy, did you not ever shake out the numbers here before the day when, shazam, you couldn't buy hay and the animals went without food??? I know folks working at the gas station who have better long-term planning than that.

They are not adopting out so they receive no adoption fees:

"We do not adopt or sell. Most of our resident burros have been removed from the wild against their wishes (FHOTD in: What, did they tell you that while you were counseling them for their separation anxiety from their fellow wild burros?), and we do not believe they should be moved yet again. They are the ultimate herd/family animal. Some of the burros and most of the horses have physical conditions which would limit their use for riding, etc. And, most important of all, we believe that adopting/placing perpetuates the feeling that non-human animals are property. They are not."

OK, if you don't believe they are property - an opinion I share in theory although I recognize it's not how it works legally - then don't you see yourselves as guardians? If you DO see yourselves as guardians, isn't it your responsibility to adopt them out if you cannot care for them? Ding, ding, when they are going without food, it's time. If Suzy Smith is paying to feed Buster Burro, why should he live with you and not with Suzy? Wouldn't you agree that it is in the best interests of Mr. Burro to be with Suzy, who can buy his hay? If he's not property, why does he have to live with you?

They have had some fundraisers and have done some mailings, but again, this is an operating budget that resembles that of a rock group on tour, except that you don't earn royalties on burros. It's a mind-boggling amount of money. And it's a good example of a bigger issue. If you're keeping it forever, why should anybody other than you pay for it? Doesn't that make it your animal and not a rescue? I guess I just don't buy/understand the whole "sanctuary" concept. I have ex-rescues out there that are perfectly happy in new homes. They didn't need to stay with me to stay safe and loved and well cared for. A news article tells me that Mr. Zaugg is an attorney - surely he can draft a solid contract to ensure that he can repo an animal if a placement does not work out.

I recently saw another e-mail from a different rescuer who'd been foreclosed out of her home. She explained her financial troubles by stating that "not saving horses from slaughter was not an option." Uh, priorities? When you are about to be homeless, try saving yourself and your family and let someone else save horses from slaughter. Believe me, you are not the only person on earth who can do it. You can return to doing it when you are back on your financial feet. In the meantime, you can volunteer for another rescue and help horses that way, without being financially responsible for them yourself.

So, back to the Hacienda. One of my readers sent them an e-mail suggesting they please change their adoption policies because the animals being upset a day or so is not as bad as going hungry for who knows how long.
Sounds logical, right?

Mr. Zaugg's reply:

"thanks for your input, and I really wish you could be here to see their condition and how they live. I don't know what someone sent to you, and if you would share it with me, I can see if it is accurate or not. We've been doing this for going on 19 years, and twice in the last 2 years, the ONLY times, we've had a hiccup."


And it's not the first time. From last March: "The 131 burros and 39 horses at Hacienda de los Milagros Sanctuary in Chino Valley, Arizona did not eat last night. Due to a temporary funding crisis, there is no food."

I'm too tired to count that list, but if this already happened once and he now has EVEN MORE animals than the LAST time he was in trouble, then I think that says it all.

No, I'm not going to forget a Friday Featured Rescue! I got an alert this morning about a Thoroughbred gelding at Lone Star Park that needs a home ASAP. They don't have a pic but here is the description:

"Fearless Anthony is an 8-year-old @16.1H dark bay thoroughbred gelding. Anthony is a favorite at his race barn. His trainer says he has a happy, friendly personality -- Anthony always finds a way to enjoy the day. Loves people! Anthony is also tall, dark and very handsome. He fractured a sesamoid about 90 days ago (has been in stall rest). The trainer is checking with her vet, but thinks Anthony may be ready for some turnout time in a small round pen. With some more healing time, his prognosis is good to be a riding horse (pleasure/trail/flat work). Anthony has the kind of personality and heart that is hard to forget. His trainer is anxious to find him a home that will love him like she does. Anthony would be free to a good home only. (Photo unavailable)

Fearless Anthony is located at Lone Star Park (in Grand Prairie, near Dallas). Please contact Jennifer at 972-814-6384 if you can give Anthony a good home."

FHOTD in: 8 years old and was still running - this guy has done his time. He deserves that great home to put him on track for his second career!

Have a great weekend, everybody!