Rico the Donkey Learns to Trust

It’s been six months since Lisa Miskella from Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary paid the bail and rescued Rico the donkey from a kill pen* in Oklahoma. 

His fate would have landed in the hands of the highest bidder per pound (kill buyers), maybe bound for Mexico or Canada where they have Equine slaughter houses.  I try not to think about that too much but it’s important that people know what his and many equines’ fate may have been. 

Rico traveled over a thousand miles to get here and when he did, he was terrified of people and extremely cautious. He was the picture of neglect; his hooves were overgrown to the point that his bones are slightly deformed, he was extremely dehydrated, covered in lice and he is blind in one eye. 

Rico before
Rico after

Over the next six months we nursed him back to health with many visits from the Vet and Farrier. We also spent many hours earning his trust. There were many breakthroughs during that time, like when he let me brush him for the first time (I didn’t want to stop), or when he first took a treat (we quickly ran out and bought bags of them), or when he put his head on the barn door looking for a snack.

His first bray was both confusing and exciting as we didn’t know if he was hungry, happy, hurt, hot etc. Turns out it mostly means that he is happy to see us or that he wants attention.

Each first fills us with joy and a feeling of hope for farm animals overall. Unfortunately, farmed animals are unprotected in most places and many are mistreated. Taking care of Rico makes us feel like we’re doing our part to raise awareness and move the needle toward compassion.

There are many firsts yet to happen and when they do, we’ll be ready.

* Kill pens are holding areas where unwanted, discarded and abandoned horses and donkeys are held until they are shipped to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. Many people who send their horses to auction are unaware that they are destined for the kill pen.