Horses/Donkeys Rescued from Failed Former Sanctuary Looking for New Homes
Recent cases of animal cruelty and neglect in Montana are enough to make anyone angry or upset but one woman and a large crew of dedicated volunteers are working to make a difference in the lives of in-crisis animals every day.
The mission is simple:
“To shelter, rehabilitate and re-home in-crisis horses and to educate the public about good horse care and the issue of horses in crisis.”
The reason is, too.
“Because we love it. Because it’s a passion, for sure and it’s needed. Montana’s not unlike any other state. There are horses in trouble for all kinds of reasons and they need help.”
Which is why, for the past 6 and ½ years, Jane Heath, along with her husband Vic and an army of volunteers, have been running the Montana Horse Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary steps in to save animals in crisis, like the recent rescue of some 1200 horses, donkeys and llamas from the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary in Hot Springs.
“It’s heartbreaking and frustrating and maddening but the good part of it is we can help,” offers Heath.
“That first piece of the puzzle is finding out what kind of shape a lot of them were in and a lot of them were in very bad condition. We were able to get the donkeys out of there first, they were in the worst condition, then followed by the horses and all of them are out now,” she adds.
And with half of them now in adoptive homes, progress is being made.
“It’s all coming together and that’s a real rewarding feeling, to see those horses start to gain weight and get shiny and same with the donkeys and start to walk normally.”
Progress is being made at the sanctuary itself, too, which moved from Helena to its new location, an historic sheep and cattle operation in Simms, a year and a half ago.
“We’re slowly getting it transformed over into a horse operation. Of course all the buildings have to be bigger and stouter and so forth – you know, horses can get themselves in all kinds of trouble.”
And then there’s the horses. Heath walks her way through the grounds, pointing out Isaac, a Sanctuary horse she adopted two years ago, and Georgia, whom she dubs, “the wisest horse I’ve ever met.”
A curious black and white girl who seems anything but shy, Roxanne came from a situation over near Billings, Heath explains.
“Her owner was feeding his herd Wonder Bread and Twinkies and they were in really bad shape.”
Roxanne is just one of the many success stories here at the Horse Sanctuary in Simms. When she came here about a year ago, she was six months old but only the size of a two month old. Since then, she’s more than doubled in size.
“She was really underdeveloped for her age because her mother didn’t have enough milk to keep nursing her. She had a lot of sores and scabs in her coat. She had a pretty bad head injury. She was a mess and she smelled bad. I could stand this far away on a very cold day and smell moldy bread smell coming off of her, so she’s come a long way,” Heath adds.
With current and upcoming renovations to the Sanctuary, Heath is looking forward to being able to welcome in even more animals. But she says recent cases of neglect keep her mindful of the danger of taking on too much.
“You can never help all of them. You just do your best to help the ones you can afford to help and keep those guys safe and well-cared for.”
Heath adds, “We hope the Sanctuary will be here long after we’re just memories. We’ve worked really hard – our board of directors and myself and Vic have worked really hard to create an organization that’ll go on easily without us. Which is how it should work. It’s for the horses, its’ not for us.”
Jane Heath says that while the current situation of an estimated 800 in-crisis horses in Billings is not a rescue at this point, she has offered the assistance of her organization if needed.
Ranch owner James Leachmen made his initial appearance in court last week, facing ten counts of animal cruelty.
The Montana Horse Sanctuary runs because of dedicated volunteers, grants and generous donations. One of their fundraisers, the state license plate program , brings in $20 to the Sanctuary for every plate sold.
For more information on how to help, visit the Montana Horse Sanctuary website.
Click (HERE) to view horses looking for their Forever Home
- Horses Rescued from Montana Large Animal Sanctuary (rtfitch.wordpress.com)
- Sanctuary Lost: Death in the Montana Mountains (rtfitch.wordpress.com)
- Northeast Llama Rescue to take in 100 gelding llamas from the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary (timesunion.com)