Animals: latest victims of the economic crisis

Photo by Åsa Björklund.

By Åsa Björklund
Staff Writer

The economic crisis has caused even animals to suffer. Shelters overflow with pets and cattle whose owners cannot afford to keep them. When people lose their jobs and homes, some get so desperate that they abandon their horses in the desert or leave their beloved pets at animal shelters.  But these non-profit organizations are struggling to cope with the increased demand.

One of those shelters is Circle L Ranch, a private non-profit foundation, where Cheryl Caldararo, Ranch Manager, cares for 122 goats, 65 horses, 24 sheep, 14 hens, 11 cows, five geese, and two roosters. In the house next door, her colleagues take care of a number of dogs. Unless they find people willing to adopt some animals, there is no room for newcomers.

Getting into the property is not easy. As soon as the gates open, the crowd of goats rushes to harass the nearest person for whatever might be in their pockets. If they find nothing, the goats are content eating his/her pants.

Following Caldararo around the pen, these goats depend on her to survive. A normal workday for Caldararo means getting up at 3:45 a.m. By 5 a.m. she is out taking care of the horses. She cleans the stalls, the goat and sheep pens, fills all water buckets, feeds the animals, lets them out, and then cleans and feeds again. Her day finishes some 12 hours later — if no animal is sick, that is. In that case, she might have to spend the night in the barn. Of course, it can happen on a day off, which means she must abandon her plans and return to the ranch.

“When you come home you know you did something good. And the animals seem to know,” she says. Caldararo finds the best thing to be “the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped the animals from being in a bad or possibly fatal situation.” Caldararo works incessantly, knowing that someone must care for the creatures, as more and more people are abandoning their pets and farm animals. She credits this to the economic crisis.

The ranch constantly gets phone calls from people who have lost their jobs and properties and can no longer take care of their pets or cattle.
“Some people load up their horses and release them in the desert,” she says. “There they will either starve to death or get eaten by predators.”

Many horse owners turn to auctions, but for the old or injured animals this can be a nightmare. As Caldararo explains, “The ‘kill buyers’ buy horses at auctions and send them off to Mexico, where they’re slaughtered for the meat… It’s not even humane — it’s just brutal how they kill them.”

Caldararo wants people to be aware of the responsibility of taking in an animal. She sees many people who owned a horse for more than 12 years, then want nothing to do with it once it is too old. “The horse gave you its best years, now it’s your turn to take care of the horse,” she wants to tell them.
Ed Boks, Director of the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS), explains that abandoning an animal is illegal. Somebody who brings a pet to a shelter, on the other hand, is “relinquishing” it, which is legal. The latter has increased about 20 percent in the last couple of years, he estimates. The YHS accepts only dogs and cats. He wishes that people would first try to find a new home for their pets among friends, family, neighbors, or by advertising in the newspaper, and use the YHS as a last resort.

Photo by Åsa Björklund.

Coming from California, where people prepare for natural disasters, Boks urges people to also prepare for financial disasters. While people may think about losing their jobs or their homes, Boks explains that people can never imagine losing their pets, until it is too later.
“Have a plan in place. When problems come you should have plenty of time to think about finding a good, safe, loving home for your pet,” he says.
The Yavapai Humane Society and Circle L Ranch both rely heavily on donations to fund their efforts. Since the economic crisis began, donations to Circle L Ranch have decreased by 90 percent.
What can you do to help out?

  • Make donations. Money and supplies are greatly appreciated.
  • Adopt an animal – but think it through beforehand. Can you offer the animal a permanent, safe home?
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter, such as the Yavapai Humane Society or Circle L Ranch. Any number of hours you can put in makes a difference.

Contacts:
Circle L Ranch: Cheryl “Frosty” Caldararo, 928-925-1926, cowgirlropr@msn.comwww.circlel.org
Yavapai Humane Society: (928) 445 2666, www.yavapaihumane.org.
If you see a case of animal cruelty or abandonment in Prescott, contact Animal Control at (928) 445 31 31. www.cityofprescott.net/services/animal.

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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