Bryce Airgood, Port Huron Times HeraldPublished 1:43 p.m. ET May 5, 2020 | Updated 2:09 p.m. ET May 5, 2020
‘What happens to these animals?’ Animal nonprofit donations come to halt during pandemic
A couple thousand pounds of grain every two to three weeks. Around 400 pounds of rabbit feed a month. Anywhere from 150 to 200 22-ounce cans of cat food a month.
That’s what it takes to keep the animals fed at the nonprofit Mustang Acres Farm in Capac, and that’s not counting the $20,000 owner Janet Mazzarini spends on hay each year feeding 18 horses. To properly care for the horses, the nonprofit’s expenses vary from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, plus vet bills.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic causing thousands to file for unemployment and with finances tight, nonprofits like Mustang Acres Farm face severe funding shortages.
“Honestly it’s next to none,” Mazzarini said of donations.
It's not just funding shortages that are a struggle, but volunteers staying home to prevent the spread of the virus.
Lisa Ponke, owner of the nonprofit Day Dreams Farm Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation in Cottrellville Township, said that 90 percent of her volunteers are now gone, leaving her and her immediate family with most of the work, though she and her husband are both essential workers and have other jobs.
Bill Gesaman, strategic growth officer for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, said animal rescue nonprofits in the state have seen an increase in adoptions but still face challenges with other aspects of their operations.
“Nonprofits that care for animals are challenged to care for them with less staff while adhering to social distancing guidelines," he said. "With limited resources this can be difficult or impossible for some, forcing them to temporarily close some programs or facilities to the public."
These limited resources include donations, and Ponke said those have come to "a screeching halt."
“When people can no longer afford to feed themselves, they certainly can’t help us," she said.
Ponke said she's concerned with what's ahead.
“That’s what haunts me at night right now,” she said.
The struggles during coronavirus pandemic
Ponke said that her nonprofit has 12 horses, three pigs, two goats, five rabbits and a turkey that have all been rescued from abuse or neglect cases.
The nonprofit is 100 percent volunteer-run and operates on a "shoestring budget," with Ponke estimating it costs about $55,000 to run with the costs of supplements, hay, food and grain.
The nonprofit holds different events throughout the year to raise money for the farm’s hay supply, each bringing in around $1,000 to $1,500. But with the pandemic, they haven't been able to hold any so far this year, Ponke said.
If they still can’t hold their events by October, “then we’re in trouble,” she said.
Although they're not there yet, at some point an organization like Ponke's has to look at the animals and say which need to go so you can feed the rest. You have to look at the big picture, she said.
“What happens to these animals?,” she asked.
Mazzarini said that Mustang Acres Farm also raises money with events, but everything's been cancelled so far this year.
She currently has a GoFundMe for the nonprofit due to the pandemic and she does a lot of fundraising via Facebook. Unfortunately, that’s not going far because people don’t have money right now, Mazzarini said.
But it does put a financial burden on her family and the last couple months some expenses have been coming out of her personal finances.
Mustang Acres Farm is not taking more animals at this time.
“You have to know when to draw your line,” she said.
How you can help
Mazzarini said the best way to support the nonprofit right now is through the GoFundMe or monetary donations. Gift cards to Tractor Supply Company and Family Farm and Home help too.
The nonprofit has a registry with Amazon where people can purchase things for the nonprofit and it will accept things like old blankets for cat bedding.
She is open to volunteers after the pandemic is over, as she currently has none and only gets help from her family on the farm.
She's grateful for any support and People can contact her on Facebook or on the nonprofit’s website.
Volunteers don’t need to have horse experience to help out. The chores are “never-ending” and there’s an abundance of things to do, Mazzarini said.
Ponke said people can also give monetary donations at the Day Dreams Farm website, and the nonprofit will accept items to resell for funds or cans and bottles that they can take to bottle returns when they are reopened.
“At some point you still have to come up with money to feed these animals,” Ponke said.
Contact Bryce Airgood at (810) 989-6202 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.
Day Dreams Farm Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation
7731 Morrow Road
Marine City, MI 48039
Visitors welcome by appointment after our stay at home order is lifted.
Day Dreams Farm is a 501(c) 3 non-profit company.
All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.