Aged Farm Animals Put Out To A Very Nice Pasture

fromVPR

What happens to a farm animal whose owner can no longer care for it, or worse, abuses or neglects it? If the animal is lucky, it gets nursed back to health and lives out its days at the Mountain View Farm Animal Sanctuary.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

When family farms hit hard times, livestock can suffer, too. Some are neglected or abused; others are put down. But a fortunate few get a second chance.

Vermont Public Radio's Charlotte Albright has this report from the Mountain View Farm Animal Sanctuary.

CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT: It all started with a donkey named Emma.

Mr. JEFF RUGGLES (Chief Caretaker, Mountain View Farm Animal Sanctuary): She was a little, tiny baby - just barely born.

ALBRIGHT: This is Jeff Ruggles, chief caretaker at the sanctuary.

Mr. RUGGLES: And they expected her not to make it. She's 8 or 9 years old now, and she's a sweetheart. Everybody loves Emma, and Emma loves any kid that'll come around.

ALBRIGHT: The sanctuary opened about 10 years ago, when John Pastore rescued Emma from a petting zoo. He brought her to his 440-acre farm in northeastern Vermont. Word spread and soon, his barn started filling up with horses, pigs, goats and cows - all with serious health problems or histories of abuse.

Caretaker Ruggles says that's all over now.

Mr. RUGGLES: They have everything they need. They don't have to worry about being hurt. They don't have to worry about being killed or anything. They're here, and they'll be here until we have to put them in the ground.

(Soundbite of a goat)

ALBRIGHT: Ruggles loves to show off the refugees, like this curvy-horned, salt-and-pepper-colored goat named Buster.

Mr. RUGGLES: He came from an abused home. They never took care of him. His toenails oh, really, really bad. His hooves were almost like, four inches long. And it took us almost a year to get his feet back into shape.

ALBRIGHT: On this frigid, sunny day, the menagerie - about a dozen animals -welcomes a newcomer: an old horse brought from a nearby resort. She's too shaky and infirm to tote tourists around.

Ms. MEREDITH ATWOOD (Horse Owner): Easy...

ALBRIGHT: Meredith Atwood coaxes Lexi Lou out of the trailer and into an outdoor stall. After a nervous twitch, Lexi finds fresh hay.

If it weren't for this refuge, Atwood tells caretaker Ruggles, she might have had to say an even sadder good-bye.

Ms. ATWOOD: I said, well, I'd rather see her put down than see her go to a bad place. She won't go to a bad place. I won't let her. And she's not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RUGGLES: No, she's not.

Ms. ATWOOD: I got my way. So I'm happy.

Mr. RUGGLES: She's in the best place she can dream of.

ATWOOD: Yeah, I think she is.

ALBRIGHT: Across the country, more and more horses are going to need saving, because a 2007 federal ban on horse slaughter has swelled the population of unwanted equines.

But it is still legal to kill other farm animals who can no longer be cared for. And for them, sanctuaries like this one are springing up in other states as well.

For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright in East Burke, Vermont.

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