Within days of his birth on a California dairy farm, Leo was discovered by animal control officers, closed inside a trailer along with three other newborn calves, all of whom were on the brink of death. Their “owner” had placed an ongoing ad for the dairy’s “surplus” Jersey bull calves, offering them for just $15 apiece. Sadly, the man had little regard for whether the calves lived or died — and in the end, Leo was the sole survivor of the four babies whom officers tried to help.

Unfortunately, Leo’s friends were not the first to meet this fate; in fact, we only learned about his group after the earlier deaths of another 12 calves, whose case was brought to the attention of animal control officers. Two friends had purchased those calves in an attempt to save their lives after finding them crammed into the same dark, feces-filled trailer where Leo was later found, without any access to food, water, or basic care. Despite the pair’s best efforts to help them, however, all 12 sadly died that week.

Heartbroken, one of the friends contacted animal control, hoping to keep other calves from suffering the same horrific treatment. Upon investigation, officers found Leo and his friends and immediately set out to provide the care they so desperately needed. As with the previous group, however, three were so sick that they passed away within the week.

Fortunately, though, Leo rallied and grew stronger each day. After hearing about his situation, we asked his case manager, whom we’ve worked with before, if we could care for him at Farm Sanctuary. Thankfully, we were immediately granted permission and soon welcomed Leo home to our Southern California Shelter.

While Leo is on the mend, he’s not out of the woods just yet. He arrived at Farm Sanctuary with terrible diarrhea, which we must monitor and treat to prevent dehydration and further health complications. Like all incoming animals at Farm Sanctuary, Leo will remain under quarantine for a minimum of 30 days to ensure that he does not have any diseases that could be spread to our other residents. We are currently awaiting results for his bloodwork, bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and bovine leukemia virus (BLV) tests, and fecal exam. Once he’s strong enough, Leo will head back to the hospital for further examination and routine neutering. If all tests come back clear, he’ll be able to join our cattle herd — an important milestone in his happy new life at sanctuary.

In the dairy industry, calves like Leo are taken from their mothers shortly after birth — a traumatic experience for both mother and baby. While we can never take the place of his mother, we can help him form an adoptive family of other rescued bovines. We can also help other calves just like him by spreading the word that farm animals are each someone, not something, and deserve to be treated as such. The dairy industry may put a price on calves like Leo, but it’s clear to all who meet them that these animals are truly priceless.

Leo received the gift of sanctuary, and we encourage anyone who is touched by his story to consider gifting a one-time symbolic sponsorship in honor of rescued farm animals experiencing comfort and joy this season. Thank you for putting compassion first!