Ravenna: Today’s column is not for the squeamish. If you have a weak stomach, jump to the third paragraph now. But if the picture in your mind is too horrible to think about, imagine the suffering of the poor animal that dies this way.
One day each week, 200 to 300 horses are auctioned off in Holmes County, home to the largest Amish community in the United States. The aging horses are herded into trucks to make an arduous trip without food or water to unregulated slaughterhouses in Mexico. If they are strong enough to withstand the trip without being trampled, a machete renders them immobile by slicing their spinal columns before their throats are slit or a bolt is shot into their brains. It’s a horrible ending to a life spent in service to humans.
The meat is sold on the European markets and frequently offered on restaurant menus.
“When people go to Amish country, they don’t think much about the horses pulling the buggies they see there,” said Annette Fisher, founder and executive director of Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna.
The organization, founded in 1999, is one of the largest farm animal rescue groups in the U.S.
Fisher, who lives in Ravenna, developed the Amish Horse Retirement Program in 2004 as a way to give some Amish-owned elderly horses a different fate. The rescue at 5623 New Millford Road is not a place where horses, pigs, goats, duck, geese and other farm animals go to die. In most cases, the animals that make it to the rescue get a whole new life.
“All our animals that come from abuse and neglect get to go to a home and become a pet,” Fisher said. “If they have been treated badly enough, that’s their reward.”
The organization does not take private surrenders. There are currently more than 100 animals awaiting adoption at the nine-acre farm, each referred by law enforcement agencies and humane societies.
The eight standardbred horses available in the Amish Horse Retirement Program are a different matter. Amish families have come to depend on Happy Trails to take faithful equines they have trusted with their families for 20 years or more.
Royal Crown and Cabrio are two such horses currently at the rescue waiting to be adopted.
“Roy and Cabrio have been very well taken care of. They simply can’t go the distance for their owners anymore,” she said. But they will make great pets, ready to ride the trails with new owners.
The rescue adopts out between 20 to 25 horses from Amish communities each year.
“They are smart and very well trained. Making the transition to a saddle is not usually a big deal.
Adoption fees range from $150-$650, depending on the age and the health of the animal.
“It’s enough that people take the adoption seriously,” she said.
The fee doesn’t come close to the cost it takes to get most of the animals into good enough health to put them up for adoption.
Applications are the same for all the rescue’s animals. After filing the forms, an adoption counselor makes sure the adopter is connected with the right animal. Training for the animal’s needs and checking to see if the potential adopter has the proper shelter is next.
“We make a home visit to make sure we aren’t putting the animal back into a bad position,” Fisher said.
As with most rescues, care and vet bills doesn’t come cheap. A semi-truck full of hay or straw costs $5,000. Grain for the animals is $450-$500 each week. Last year, upkeep was $150,000, made through donations and various fundraising efforts each year.
The organization will hold an art sale, Art Barn 2013, in March with all proceeds going to maintaining the sanctuary.
Fisher, who grew up in Barberton, said establishing the sanctuary was something she felt compelled to do, no matter the cost.
“I did it because there was this big hole in Ohio law that lets these animals just slip through. People need to realize, if somebody can abuse an animal, they can do it to humans, too,” she said.
Other animals in the news,
Kitten Krazy Adoption Event — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Sunday for PetSmart’s National Adoptathon at 5011 Grande Blvd., Medina. All animals up for adoption at the event will be fully vetted. Fees are $90 for kittens under 4 months, $75 for kittens 4-12 months and $60 for cats over a year. Senior citizens 60 and over can adopt any cat for $60. To see all adoptable cats, visit www.kittenkrazy.org or visit the free-roaming adoption center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 930 Lafayette Road, Medina.
Pet Days Adoption event — The Wayne County Humane Society and Premier GMC will be the hosts of the adoption event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 2 at the dealership at 2000 Eastern Road, Rittman. The humane society will present adoptable animals, pet food training tips and other advice. All animals will be spayed or neutered and fully vetted with vaccinations and necessary testing. Dogs will have a 2013 dog licence and be microchipped. Premier GMC will donate 40 percent of the adoption fee. For more information, contact Mike DeGrisky at 330-664-1500.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.