Messy yard cops causing horse rescue center to close?
Gilbert horse-rescue operation in trouble
Gilbert horse refuge needs funds to fix code violations
by Parker Leavitt - Jan. 16, 2011 07:48 PM
The Arizona Republic
Both Ginger and her unborn foal seemed destined for slaughter before rescuers from Wildhorse Ranch intervened.
The non-profit animal-rescue group in Gilbert bought the mare at auction, competing with "killer buyers" who snatch up inexpensive horses to process for meat.
Ginger was spared from slaughterhouse and instead given refuge at the group's ranch, where she safely gave birth to her foal, named Blaze.
A couple adopted the young horse but couldn't afford to keep her when they lost their business. The rescue group took her back, and Blaze and Ginger now live together at the ranch.
About 140 abandoned or slaughterhouse-bound horses have been saved during 15 years of operation for Wildhorse Ranch Rescue, but the group's future is now in jeopardy: Maricopa County has threatened to shut it down for code violations.
Officials say the rescue ranch, which is situated on 1.2 acres of county land near Lindsay and Warner roads, needs a special-use permit, which costs about $5,600.
County-required engineering and drainage improvements could cost an extra $20,000 to $50,000, ranch founder Kim Meagher said.
After an Arizona Republic article on the group's plight earlier this month, numerous donors have stepped forward to make contributions to keep the ranch alive.
An anonymous donor has already offered to pay the permit fee, and $6,000 in donations have been collected for the other requirements, Meagher said. Wildhorse Ranch has until July 15 to make up the rest or cease operations.
"We would like to stay in Maricopa County if we can," she said. "However, we are considering moving the charity if we find that the costs are too great or that we cannot raise the funds to get the special-use permit."
Donations can be made at whrr.org , by mail at P.O. Box 415, Gilbert, AZ 85299, or by calling 866-926-8007.
Locally, more than 60 volunteers help feed the horses, muck the stalls, clean the ranch and groom the animals every day. The organization is supported entirely by donations, and ranch workers do not take a salary.
The group also has saved more than 70 dogs and cats on the Havasupai Reservation, which is based in the Grand Canyon. The group pays for the animals to be spayed or neutered before finding them a home.
Currently, the ranch is home to about 14 horses, several dogs and about 30 cats, most of which are contained within two atriums.
Operations cost about $6,000 per month, not including emergency veterinarian costs, board vice chairman Skip DeNardo said.
As Wildhorse Ranch works to raise the money needed to satisfy county demands over the next six months, volunteers must also "focus on bringing in funding to feed the rescued animals that are currently in our care," Meagher said.
Those animals include Maddy, a brood mare who produced 14 foals in 16 years at a ranch in Cave Creek and Chip, a 6-year-old mustang caught on the Gila River Reservation.
If Wildhorse Ranch Rescue is shut down, the fate of those animals remains uncertain.
"I can't imagine them not being safe here," Meagher said. "Horses seem to suffer in silence. They're beasts of burden, and when they're done, most of them don't end up with a good life. They deserve better."