For over 22 years, Return to Freedom has provided a safe haven to wild horses and burros traumatized by round ups by the Bureau of Land Management. While the demands of emergency rescues are constantly in front of us in social media, sanctuaries have the responsibility to provide care and refuge for a lifetime. It is only with the compassion and dedication of our donors that Return to Freedom is able to maintain a safe and loving sanctuary for wild horses and burros who have been traumatized by capture and removal from their home ranges and family bands. RTF makes a great effort to keep bonded family and social bands together and even searches for fragmented members of a herd to reunite here.

As the horses age we do our best with our veterinary team to provide regular preventative care (dental, worming, supplements) so the horses can have a good quality of life (the majority living well into their thirties).

Today, the sanctuary averages 500 wild horses and 51 burros living at our sanctuaries in the central coast of California. We provide the vital support they require to meet immediate emergency needs and the essential care including any specialized on-going medical attention and special feed needs.

Our primary goal at the sanctuary is to provide an environment where the horses and burros can live out the rest of their lives in a manner that maximizes their individual emotional and physical well-being while they live in their various social groups.

A lesson we learned this year, with the country shut down, is that it is absolutely necessary to have veterinary medical care and equipment on site in order to continue to give the horses the quality care that they so richly deserve. Many of the wild horses and burros have pressing medical needs sustained from trauma and injury from round-ups by the BLM, or because they are aging.

Because of this, we need to grow the Stella DeMayo Veterinary and Special Needs Fund so that we are always able to sustain our special needs and senior horses and respond to unforeseen emergencies.

In 2021, RTF has added an on-site veterinarian to our sanctuary team!

We hope to be able to purchase some additional basic medical equipment; ultrasound, Sling and a few other tools that will enable us to offer urgent-care 24-hours a day on site as needed and so much more. While we are excited to take this direction, increased costs come with it.

As we often say, we belong to each other and that means we look out for each other. With this in mind, please consider joining us in looking out for the wild horses and burros by contributing to the Stella DeMayo Veterinary and Special Needs Fund.

Thank you for your consideration, every lifesaving donation has a direct impact.


Stella DeMayo, beloved wife of the late Bill DeMayo and mother of Return to Freedom’s Founder, Neda DeMayo, passed away on August 17, 2020. Stella was a wonderful nurturer to all, and worked professionally as a registered nurse. She was also an herbalist and interested in holistic work and remedies.

Stella was always deeply concerned for the well-being of RTF’s horses and burros, especially when they were injured or sick. She always asked about their health, and was truly interested in their care.

In honor of Stella’s nurturing nature and support, RTF has established the VETERINARY AND SPECIAL NEEDS FUND.

Images of Stella DeMayo