June, 2012 Update: We’ve been busy taking care of more than 60 animals we rescued from this horrifying case of extreme neglect. Much to our surprise, two of the emaciated cows, Belinda and Oleander, were pregnant! As you can imagine, the excitement is building here as we prepare for these new arrivals. These soon-to-be-moms are in for the most pleasant surprise of their lives because they will get to keep their babies! On June 20, Belinda gave birth to a healthy baby boy. We are delighted to welcome him and provide Belinda with the care she needs as she continues to recover and regain her health.
The Cattaraugus Rescue story:
Recently, we received a call from the Cattaraugus County SPCA, a no-kill animal shelter about 90 minutes south of Buffalo, New York. The SPCA had been investigating a farm with a large number of animals who were not receiving proper care. SPCA staff had been involved with earlier neglect charges at this location, and they had reason to believe that the problems would be serious. Susie Coston, our national shelter director, mobilized our Emergency Rescue Team and traveled to meet them at the scene.
The “farm” was cluttered with rubbish and abandoned equipment. The smell of death and decay was palpable. A barn crammed with old tools, tires, and trash of all sorts housed emaciated sheep and many newly born lambs. The barn was sectioned off into makeshift stalls with pallets and scrap metal tied together with ropes, halters, and chains. The animals had no access to food or water. Chickens lined the stalls in the darkness, and a room off to the left held a recently deceased sheep — no doubt the mother of one of the tiny lambs. The stench in this room was overpowering.
Outside, seven cows languished in a grassless pasture with no hay or water. Like the sheep inside, every bone in their bodies was visible. The SPCA president solemnly walked us to a small cinderblock building on the property and revealed what can best be described as the owner’s “little shop of horrors” — a grim slaughterhouse, complete with rendering equipment and a floor drain. In Susie’s almost two decades of experience rescuing farm animals, this was certainly among the most chilling cases of neglect and cruelty she had encountered.
Officers from Cattaraugus County SPCA informed our team that the farm owner had surrendered the animals in an attempt to avoid charges. They worked closely with us for hours to load the animals into our trailer and other vehicles. A quick count revealed at least 30 severely malnourished sheep and lambs; seven very thin cows, including one nursing Holstein and her calf; and more than 20 chickens who were also extremely underweight.
All of the animals rescued are in extremely compromised states of health, but the sheep, who are all now at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter, are of particular concern. “You can see every bone in their bodies, and their matted feces-filled wool is in patches on their skin,” Susie reports. There are three unaltered males in the group, each very thin and two in highly weakened states. Many of the females have given birth recently. Their bodies, already depleted from starvation, just experienced the strain of birth, and now they are struggling to nurse their babies. Many of the females are suffering from hoof rot so severe that some may lose one or both claws on their feet. One mother, who has two of the tiniest lambs, has nothing left of one of her hooves. This type of infection will take weeks to treat. All the sheep, including the babies, are infested with lice, and the mothers are being treated for mange and the huge parasite loads they are carrying.
Farm Sanctuary caregivers are currently determining whether the mothers are producing enough milk to provide for their tiny offspring. At our New York Shelter, the adults are savoring clean hay, mineral blocks, and water, and the older lambs are even eating from the blocks to replenish the minerals their bodies are lacking. The sickest of the sheep will remain at our shelter for now, and, thankfully, two excellent New York rescue organizations, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary, will also provide homes for some of these beautiful mothers and their lambs.
One goat, who we are calling Lila, was rushed to Cornell University Hospital for Animals for emergency care where the veterinary staff reports that she is still too weak to stand. She is suffering from severe anemia and a parasite infestation. She will receive a blood transfusion and IV fluids. For Lila and many of these malnourished individuals, food must be introduced slowly so as not to overwhelm their compromised digestive systems, which will be very sensitive following such a long period without food.
The Farm Sanctuary Rescue Team also managed to rescue every chicken on the property. Back at our shelter, the hens and two beautiful roosters are feeding and taking their first small steps back to health. Seven cattle are also here at our Watkins Glen sanctuary enjoying fresh green grass and sunshine. They are slowly warming up to us. We already know that three of the cattle will be going to VINE Sanctuary in Vermont and we are still looking for homes for the other four.
The SPCA is pressing for the owner to be charged with cruelty and neglect — and to be banned from possessing any animals in the future. His operation is also under investigation by USDA.
We will share an update on the state of the animals as we continue to assess their response to medical care. The callous cruelty evident at this scene is beyond our comprehension, but we are focusing our energy on restoring these animals to health and giving them the lives of peace and security that all creatures deserve. You can help us provide urgent care and rehabilitation for these rescued sheep, lambs, cows, Lila the goat, and other animals in need by donating to our Emergency Rescue Fund.