Mutton Busting (aka Sheep Riding)
This weekend a new store in our local area celebrated their Grand Opening with an event called Mutton Busting. If you don’t know what that is, it is where sheep are run through a chute, a child gets on their back, the gate is opened, and the sheep goes running and bucking with the child trying to stay on for as long as he/she can. In an interview in our local media, it was stated that: “There are no rules for Mutton Busting and they are run at the local level.”
Spring Farm CARES is speaking out on this because this is totally wrong on so many levels. Sheep are not physically capable of bearing weight on their backs. They are not pack animals. Sheep, like all animals (including humans), have feelings. Sheep happen to be extremely sensitive animals. They are flock animals, which means their survival depends upon their ability to read danger and to know when to flock together or move to get away from danger. They think and move as a group. They are quiet, gentle, docile, and the natural introverts of the barnyard animals. When the sheep leave the chute, they are running not because they are having fun, but because they are completely terrified. There is nothing in this experience that is fun for them at all. In fact, it is very dangerous to their physical well-being. We at Spring Farm CARES have cared for a sheep that came out of a situation just like this where a family was letting a child ride the sheep for sport. This 2 year old sheep came to us after he was lame and was having trouble standing up and the people didn’t know what to do with him. It turned out after we got him veterinary care that he had two places in his spine that had fused from the weight put on his back. His life was drastically cut short because we were no longer able to keep him comfortable. All because someone thought it was “good fun” for the kid to do this. It is not good fun at all. Someone said to us that they think this is totally legal. Maybe it is. But it is completely unethical and immoral – and shouldn’t be allowed at any rate. We have a choice as to what we teach our children. The animals have no choice in what we do to them.
As adults, we have a responsibility to teach our children about what it is to be compassionate human beings. Children learn this by what we teach them and by what they see us do. This weekend, we seriously let our children down. Most people probably had no clue that the sheep experience that as complete terror. They may not have questioned it because if people are hosting this event then surly it must be ok. But people who truly know sheep know that the sheep are terrified. So why do they then permit this to happen to the animals in their care? Why would a new local business want to introduce themselves to our community with this cruelty? Why are we teaching our kids that terrorizing another living being for entertainment is ok? Why do we as adults find that fun and entertaining?
The trauma these sheep experienced at the expense of human entertainment is unbelievably tragic. We sincerely hope that this community will consider the animals’ well-being at events in the future. Mutton Busting is not a sport. It is a cruelty. And cruelty should never be entertaining. Our kids should be taught about being compassionate instead of being shown that it’s ok to terrorize another living being for a good laugh.
What Makes a Sanctuary a Sanctuary?
You may have been hearing a lot of reports lately of animal sanctuaries that are being raided and the animals rescued from horrific conditions. The situations and reports are extremely upsetting and disturbing. Many people are jumping to broad conclusions that sanctuaries are horrible places and offer only suffering to the animals in their care. It is important to note that not all sanctuaries are alike.
We feel that it is time for us to respond to this issue. Obviously not ALL sanctuaries are bad. Many are outstanding in the scope of their work and the care of their animals. It is unfair to lump all sanctuaries into one category because of the extreme neglect by a few. It is vitally important if you are looking to donate to a sanctuary, or wish to bring an animal to one, that you ask some fundamental questions and educate yourself as to what the sanctuary does and how it operates.
There are many points to consider on what makes a good sanctuary. First, it is important to note that people who start sanctuaries do so out of an honest love for animals and wanting to rescue them. But if they don’t know their own limitations, or lack a solid foundation and a clear vision to live by, things can go very wrong very quickly. There are always many more animals in need than what any sanctuary can possibly take in. To operate a sanctuary means having to say “no” when you are full and that can be very tough. We have to say “no” to over 60 cats/kittens, 25 dogs, multiple rabbits and a handful of goats, horses, etc., EVERY WEEK, simply because we are at our limit and have no more room. It is heartbreaking to say “no”, but it is necessary.
Here are four major factors to consider when looking at sanctuaries:
- Animal to staff ratio – Providing care for the animals in a sanctuary goes far beyond their immediate daily care and veterinary needs. Quality of life is equally important. That includes how much attention animals get and what kind of life they have. Are they sitting in cages with no attention? Or are they in rooms or housing that allows them social contact with humans and other animals? Also, is the environment suited for that particular animal? Some animals want to be social and others don’t. It takes a lot of man-hours to maintain a nurturing environment that includes not only their physical care but also their emotional needs. For example, at Spring Farm CARES we have an animal population of about 250 -275 animals. We currently have 14 full-time and 8 part-time animal care employees, as well as 4 full-time office/administrative staff, (plus 3 full time directors working 70-80 hours per week each). The administrative staff and directors all also spend some of their time working with the animals. In addition, we also have over 100 volunteers who not only help with physical labor, but more importantly spend time sitting with and playing with the animals. Even with all these people, we could always use more help. The animal/staff ratio then is important information as to how much care is going to the animals. Cleaning, feeding, medicating are necessary parts of their daily care, but play/socialization/snuggle time is equally as important.
- Transparency – Another factor to consider is whether you are allowed to visit the sanctuary and how much of the sanctuary is open for visitors to see. While there are bound to be some restrictions on where visitors can go, if no one is allowed to see the animals at all, as well as the environments that they live in, then that is a big red flag. Here, we are open to the public 7 days a week from 10am-5pm. We do not have any of our animal areas restricted to the public unless we have an animal that is stressed or ill or just is not social to people coming to visit. But in general, our entire facility is open. We also have veterinarians and other animal care professionals who are on site regularly and who see the care our animals are getting on a routine basis. We do not have a veterinarian on staff but do have a Licensed Veterinary Technician working for us full-time.
- Population and Limits – Another important factor is whether the sanctuary discloses how many animals they currently have, what their limit is and whether animals are permanent residents or are being adopted out. It also makes a difference as to whether the animals are healthy adoptable animals, or if they are special needs animals, requiring even more care. At Spring Farm CARES, our animal population ranges from 250-275 animals, which is the limit we can maintain while providing an excellent quality of life. We do have many elderly, disabled, and special needs animals, as well as young, healthy adoptable ones. Determining our population limit, is not only based on space availability, but also on how much time is required to be sure to cater to each animal’s special needs, and to be sure they have a high quality of life.
- Funding – Obviously, funding is another huge factor in how a sanctuary operates. It is important to note in sanctuary work that, as animals age, their medical needs increase. Thus, if a sanctuary is working with elderly, disabled or hospice cases, medical expenses per animal are bound to be higher than for younger, less challenged animals. At Spring Farm CARES, our annual operating budget is $1.25 million per year. Our funds are dedicated first to the animal care part of the operation, including medical care, and lastly to any other programs we run. No animal in our care ever has a medical decision made based on finances. That has been the level of care with which we started our sanctuary and that is how we will continue to operate. If an animal comes in with a badly broken leg that can be amputated for $400 or surgically repaired for $3,000, then, if the best medical decision for that animal is the orthopedic surgery, that’s what they get without question. Besides the excellent small and large animal veterinarians who treat our animals, we also use alternative and preventative medicine such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, physical rehabilitation services, etc. Whatever the level of care our animals need, they will get.
There are many other factors that make a sanctuary a true sanctuary, but these are the four that will give you a clearer picture of how a sanctuary operates and what level of care the animals receive. It is a challenge to operate a sanctuary when people are banging at your doors, calling you on the phone, and sending you emails pleading with you to take their animals and when you know that you are indeed that animal’s last chance. Saying yes and taking them in is a great feeling. And having to say no is one of the hardest things in the world. We have that happen here every single day. The way we get through it is to always look into the eyes of the ones who are already with us and know that to be true to them and their care, we must know and respect our limitations. If we don’t, then we become part of the problem that caused these animals to need us in the first place. Meeting the needs of the animals currently in our care must always remain top priority when facing the needs of those we know we can’t help.
The foundation of Spring Farm CARES is based on a strong philosophy that guides us each and every day. Our hope is that by listening to and learning from the animals and sharing their stories and messages, we can make a difference in how people see animals. We believe that, if humans understood that animals have souls and feel emotions just as we do, the animals would not be treated as poorly as they often are. We have known from day one that we couldn’t save them all, and that in fact, we can actually save very few. But we can work with the animals and on their behalf to try to open the human heart and get people to realize that we are all on this planet together – connected. The animals teach us about unconditional love and to not judge. If we humans understood that like they do, the world would be a very different place.
We believe we can stand with the animals to get their message heard. And that is what the Spring Farm CARES mission has been and continues to be today. Below is our Mission Statement. We keep it posted in the front of our facility to remind us every day that there is always hope even in the sea of despair we face daily.
Spring Farm CARES Mission Statement
We believe that when our Mother Earth and all her living things were created, a loving balance, respect, and communication existed between Humans, all other life forms, and the Earth. We believe that Humankind has forgotten the original plan, to the detriment not only of others in the animal kingdom, and of the Earth, but of ourselves. We believe that a return to an understanding of our oneness with All That Is will cure the cruelties and horrors, and the illnesses with which we find ourselves surrounded. Through our caring contribution, we hope to help Humankind remember that original plan of love and respect, to remember our natural ability to communicate with All That Is, and so return to balanced health, physically, mentally, spiritually, and in relationship to all.