Rescuing the Horse Rescue

Eastern San Diego County horse sanctuary struggles to stay afloat

NBCUniversal, Inc.

On a ranch just outside of Descanso on the eastern side of San Diego County, there are horses. There are donkeys. There are pigs, llamas, ducks, chickens, more horses, sheep, goats, and even more horses.

And no one wants them except the Horses of Tir Na Nog.

The nonprofit is the oldest equine sanctuary in San Diego County and works closely with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. When large animals are neglected or abused, they are taken to the Horses of Tir Na Nog.

“When we couldn’t find adoptive homes, or they needed special care,” explained Amy Pat Rigney, the nonprofit’s administrator.

However, Rigney said their ability to care for more than 200 large animals is in jeopardy.

“These are very uncertain times,” she said. “We’re used to working all year long on fundraising, but it’s just harder to do that in the midst of a pandemic.”

Their largest fundraiser of the year was supposed to be this month.

“That meant that those donations that we typically raise through that event have also stopped coming in,” Rigney said. “So, it’s been a frightening month.”

She said the ranch also relies heavily on volunteers to care for the animals, feed them, and clean their areas.

“You really can’t do what we do without coming into that 6-foot social distancing issue,” she said.

Rigney said it costs roughly $10,000 a month just to feed the animals but she realizes people who would regularly donate are now concerned about their own wellbeing. She just doesn’t know how long Horses of Tir Na Nog can hold on.

“That’s the question that keeps most of us on the leadership team up every night because we simply don’t know that answer.”

In the meantime, Rigney said they’re trying to be as creative as possible to raise money. They are inviting people to virtually adopt their animals through their website. Donors will get a plush version of their animal and Rigney will get some peace of mind.

“We’re looking forward to things changing and normalcy returning, but of course none of us know when that’s going to happen.”

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