Spike in demand is straining Stratford-area large animal rescue

The founder of a large animal rescue near Stratford says her non-profit, volunteer-run sanctuary has reached physical, emotional and financial limits since demand for her service skyrocketed during the pandemic.

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The founder of a large animal rescue near Stratford says her non-profit, volunteer-run sanctuary has reached physical, emotional and financial limits since demand for her service skyrocketed during the pandemic.

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“I think people lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to feed themselves, so they definitely couldn’t feed their animals, said Angie Hurst, who leads the large animal rescue. Out of the Ashes based in Sebringville. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and – it sounds awful – when one spot opens up we’ll take another if need be.”

Out of the Ashes, a rescue many consider a hidden gem in the small rural town west of Stratford, is home to 92 large animals. Almost 40 are horses, but the sanctuary also cares for cattle, water buffaloes, goats and llamas, many of which require long-term medical attention due to years of neglect.

About three-quarters of the animals in the rescue have been brought in in the past two years, said Hurst, a peak who has pushed his modest operation as far as it can get. She runs Out of the Ashes with a single employee and a small team of volunteers, as well as the support of a local veterinarian and an equine hoof care specialist.

“It takes a lot to do what we do and still be able to give everyone 110% here,” she said. “I always promised these animals that I would never take (that much) that we could not give them everything (that they need).

Although Hurst is passionate about helping animals in need, leading the rescue is not her full-time job. She is also the third generation owner of Luckhart Transport Ltd., a cattle trucking company founded by her grandfather in 1951.

Hurst began rescuing animals with his father a decade ago after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals asked them for help with transportation. Once they started doing hospitality, they never stopped, gradually building the rescue on 17 acres of land the family business owns behind the trucking operation on Route 135.

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Angie Hurst, founder of the large animal rescue Out of the Ashes, overlooks the nonprofit organization's 42-acre field in Sebringville.  (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald)
Angie Hurst, founder of the large animal rescue Out of the Ashes, overlooks the nonprofit organization’s 42-acre field in Sebringville. (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald)

“When I was a kid I always liked animals, but I always really liked the underdogs, the ones who really needed help, the ones nobody wanted,” said Hurst. “So that’s what we’re made up of here. We do not welcome any of our animals. Everyone who is here will stay here for the rest of their lives.

Rescue work has since spread among animal welfare agencies and the general public mainly through word of mouth. Out of the Ashes has just over 1,000 followers on Facebook, a place on the web that the nonprofit uses to share stories and updates about its animals, including Poppy, a former racehorse who became the last member of the rescue last month.

The recent surge in demand is not the first or only adversity that Out of the Ashes has faced.

Three years ago, an electrical fire razed a barn and claimed the lives of a number of foster animals. After making it through that winter housing the others in trailers, the current rescue barn was built soon after and Hurst redoubled his efforts.

The tragedy also inspired the name of the rescue.

“We have turned evil into good,” she said. “Everyone always says, ‘How can you not be so angry and bitter all the time? “But we just take that energy and go back and put it back into these (animals) because they’re the ones who need it the most,” Hurst said.

Vanessa Castaneda, a staff member of the Out of the Ashes Large Animal Rescue, gives hay to Olaf, one of 92 animals living in the Sebringville Sanctuary.  (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald)
Vanessa Castaneda, a member of the Out of the Ashes Large Animal Rescue staff, gives hay to Olaf, one of 92 animals living in the Sebringville Sanctuary. (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald)

Many rescues are currently facing capacity issues, she added, and large animals are often overlooked more often than most people realize.

“Unfortunately, it’s very common,” said Hurst. “I know a lot of aid and rescue companies are all full.”

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Costs generally increase in winter. Out of the Ashes feeds their animals about 40 small bales of hay a day when snow covers their field, and these cost between $ 5 and $ 7 each, Hurst said.

Fortunately, this is also the time of year when the rescue receives the most donations from the community. H Urst is hoping his annual Christmas fundraiser, Deck the Stalls, can be held in person in December.

Last year, the virtual event raised $ 7,000.

Long-term, Hurst said the rescue has applied for charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency, a big step she hopes to formalize over the next six months.

“We really depend on fundraising,” she said. “As long as I have the money to make sure that (the animals) receive the proper care, then I will continue to bring them. But for now… we always have to remember that we could have an emergency at any time. of the day.”

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