Monday, October 3, 2011
Spotted donkeys rescued as drought continues to pound North Texas
The Humane Society of North Texas expects to receive another 14 donkeys from another rancher this week.
Last week the Humane Society of North Texas took custody of a herd of nearly 30 spotted donkeys. A Bridgeport, Texas breeder of the donkeys, considered a novelty by some, had become another in a long line of equine owners hit hard by the one-two punch of what the National Weather Service calls a “massive exceptional drought” and a depressed and uncertain economy.
Near-record drought conditions in Texas have turned normally fertile pastures into barren, dusty rangeland incapable of sustaining livestock. Local farmers and ranchers struggle to survive, with many bringing in hay from out of state. But a market long on demand and short on supply, combined with the sky-high cost of transport, has doubled, tripled, and in some cases quadrupled hay prices. Reducing and liquidating herds, especially those that are not food-producing, has become a necessity and an all too common reality.
According to the National Weather Service:
94 percent of pasture and rangeland in Texas is rated as poor or very poor and nearly all of the hay supply is being brought in from other states.
With a limited water supply, Texas ranchers are having to reduce the size of their herds. Some ranchers have had to resort to a complete liquidation.
Parts of the Trinity Aquifer, located west of Fort Worth, have fallen as much as 80 feet! This is the greatest loss since records were first kept in the 1950s drought.
Compounding the problems caused by the drought is the effect of the economy on the equine market. Ranchers looking to cut back on expenses by liquidating non-food-producing animals have flooded the market, exacerbating the problem. Unable to afford the unusually high cost of caring for his beloved donkeys and unable to sell them in a market nearly obliterated by the economy, the breeder in Bridgeport made the responsible decision to voluntarily surrender them. He’s not alone. The Humane Society of North Texas expects to receive another 14 donkeys from another rancher this week.
Those are the lucky ones. Unfortunately, some beleaguered livestock owners are simply abandoning their animals. This past Friday, the SPCA of Texas was awarded custody of a starving, emaciated horse found wandering loose near a restaurant in Terrell recently, as well as five horses and two donkeys from a property in Kemp where they’d been abandoned without appropriate food, water, or care.
"There is no excuse for abandoning your livestock animals," said Art Muñoz, senior investigator for the SPCA of Texas. "Ask friends and neighbors for help, ask your veterinarian, ask your local law enforcement or call the SPCA of Texas for possible resources if you are no longer able to care for your animals."
According to the Texas Agrilife Extension Service, it will take the state's pasture land at least until the middle of the decade to recover from this year's drought and wildfires. Sandy Grambort, of the Humane Society of North Texas, says the unprecedented combination of sustained drought and an uncertain economy has caused a lot of farmers and ranchers to rethink business as usual, and may well change change the face of the industry forever. One thing is for sure, the increased demand for assistance with livestock is taxing available resources statewide. Grambort estimates the Humane Society of North Texas will spend an average of $600 on each of the donkeys – vaccinating, sterilizing, worming, testing, and feeding them prior to adoption. That does not include the extra cost for caring for one of the babies who is suffering from corneal ulcers and a hematoma.
The HSNT adoption fee for the spotted jacks is $100 each, which includes a current Coggins test. The adoption fee for the jennies, most of which are pregnant, and the babies will be $150 each, and that also includes Coggins testing. The donkeys range in age from just a few months to six years. The majority of the herd are in very good shape, having received proper veterinary care and adequate feed up until recently. Most are gentle, but not halter broke, although Grambort expects they will train easily. If you are seriously interested in adopting a donkey, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and an adoption application, or call 817-431-1170.
If you’d like to help but don’t have the facilities for a donkey, donations to help with food and veterinarian costs can be made online at www.hsnt.org. They are also in need of livestock trailers to help transport animals in need to their facility.
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