With Halloween upon us, the residents of wildlife sanctuaries and animal rehabilitation centers associated with the Humane Society of the United States and our affiliates are busy trick or treating. They are snacking on peanut butter and nuts stuffed inside pine cones, bringing down pinatas filled with goodies, and tearing apart goodie bags. And as you can see here, no one – be they burro, horse, squirrel, bear, tiger or coyote – can resist carving up a delicious pumpkin.
Each Halloween, staff members at the centers do their best to make Halloween extra fun for the animals in their care. But the work they do year-round for these animals, who are in critical need of help by the time they come to us, is even more amazing.
At the Duchess Sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon, operated by our affiliate, the Fund for Animals, we look after nearly 200 rescued horses and burros. Many of the mares were rescued from the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry, through the generous support of the Ark Watch Foundation. The mares had spent decades in stalls, impregnated and hooked up to machines to collect their urine. Other residents include mustangs, former race horses, and horses and burros rescued from slaughter, starvation and neglect.
Our two affiliated wildlife centers — South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale and the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, California – provide rehabilitative and medical care for thousands of wild mammals and birds each year, including sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. After treatment and rehabilitation, the animals are released back into the wild.
A few days back, I visited our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, also operated by the Fund for Animals. The ranch is home to more than 800 domestic and exotic animals, from tigers to cattle, horses and burros, great apes and bison. Many of these animals were rescued from slaughterhouses, laboratories, roadside zoos and trophy hunting ranches. Others came from public lands where they were threatened with extermination by the federal government.
Even the chimpanzees at Project Chimps, a sanctuary supported by the HSUS, enjoyed a special “Chimp or Treat” event, with visitors providing fun enrichment for the animals while learning more about them.
These animals are resilient and eager to take advantage of the enrichments we provide, including at Halloween time. As Deborah Robbins Millman, SFWC Director of Operations, explains, “the enrichment items, including carved pumpkins and peanut butter and nut-stuffed pinecones, keep our patients actively engaged and encourage the foraging behaviors they’ll need to thrive in the wild. Jack-o-lanterns are not only a Halloween icon, they also provide crevices for paws to dig out tasty pulp and seeds. Once the delicious morsels are consumed, the shells stimulate exercise, hiding and other positive, natural behaviors.”
As heartbreaking as their histories are, the animals thrive in our care and heal. After spending an incredible day with the animals at the Black Beauty Ranch, I stopped to read, once again, a sign that hangs over the ranch’s entrance. It’s a quote from the moving novel, Black Beauty, and it reads: “I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home…” These pictures of the animals, carefree and at play without a worry in the world, capture the sentiment of that quote beautifully.
I hope they bring a smile to your face, as they did to mine.