In this together: Crisis raises concerns for all, including our sanctuary

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Photo of Ranger, left, and General taken by Karen Asherah at RTF’s Lompoc, Calif., headquarters sanctuary.

To Our Friends:

I wanted to reach out and first find out how you’re all doing. I hope that you are healthy and finding ways to use this time to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

We truly are all in this together. In some ways, having the world slow down has given us a chance to take stock of the way that we live and the choices that we make daily— and how those choices affect our communities, locally and globally, as well as resources and the environment.

I also want to let you all know how we are coping with this crisis. Even when things are “normal,” it is not easy to raise the funds to provide sanctuary for 465 wild horses and 51 burros. But we are, in fact, very concerned about the many lives depending on us every day.

When we are all facing an uncertain future, it is hard to ask for support. But if you are able to make a donation, we need your help.

First, we want you to know that all of the horses at Return to Freedom’s sanctuary are doing well! At our headquarters here in Lompoc, Calif., we have enough hay on-site to last until mid-May. Our suppliers have been very understanding, letting us pay off those hay bills plus our special feed bills for the more than 50 senior and special-needs horses.

With the late rains, we will be able to reduce hay costs for a few months, but hay and other feed costs won’t cease completely.

Second, our small but mighty team is healthy and in good spirits! I am so grateful and proud to be part of this amazing team of individuals! We have had to reduce salaries and hours for our office staff, who are mostly working remotely, but our ranch team must provide daily care, rain or shine, one way or another. Whether it’s throwing hay, checking water troughs, repairing pipes and fences, moving horses, performing farrier work, or giving medical attention, there’s too much work to be done for us to lose anyone on our skeleton crew.

We continue to apply for grants and emergency funding, reducing costs where we can and responding to viable adoption applicants.

We’ve all worked so hard to save them and offer them a safe sanctuary that provides some measure of the freedom that they’ve lost.

They’ve given us so much in return. They’ve helped us educate people of all ages about the diversity of wild horses and their behavior, the place of the horse in American history and culture, and the challenges that wild herds face today on the range. For over 22 years now, maintaining natural family bands and herds have inspired others to do the same

Our wild horses have shared with us lessons that have given RTF a unique voice on Capitol Hill, one rooted in science and everyday management experience, which we use to advocate for a humane, sustainable future for America’s wild horses and burros on their rightful ranges.

For the Wild Ones,

Neda DeMayo

Programs Update

At this time, we hope to continue our tours and photo safaris beginning in May, as these all take place outdoors. However, we will continue to monitor and comply with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines. If we can hold programs this summer, the tours will be kept small, we will practice safe distancing, and other steps will be implemented to help protect the health of visitors, staff and the horses and burros. Of course, we will not be able to accommodate anyone who is ill or has been in contact with someone who is ill for the safety of all visitors.

Fighting On: Advocacy

With the onset of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, in-person meetings at the Capitol were halted in March. We remain in contact with congressional staff, however. Our focus as the Appropriations process begins remains moving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) toward implementation of safe, proven and humane fertility control that can result in the phasing out of almost five decades of the agency’s lone management tool — the capture and removal of wild horses and burros from the range.

We are also working to secure funding language that bars the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service from killing captive, healthy horses or burros or selling them to slaughter, as well as language that continues the effective prohibition on horse slaughter within the United States. We are continuing to lobby the Forest Service to reduce the number of sale-authority horses made available per person per day for as little as $1 per horse. This lack of oversight only increases the risk of these wild and free horses to be put in the wrong hands and sold for slaughter. As always, we are continuing our efforts to build support for the SAFE Act, which would permanently ban horse slaughter and the export of American horses for slaughter.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to call or email.

Thank you for your continued support. Please stay healthy!

The RTF Team

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Take action: Seven ways you can help America’s horses