BY BILL PHILLIPS
We’ve all read the headlines and seen the pictures of starving and neglected animals being seized.
It happens all too frequently.
And while the headlines may slide out of our consciousness as we get on with our lives, the affected animals are left with, at times, a long road to recovery.
It’s a recovery that wouldn’t happen without people like Nicola Redpath and the Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue Society.
Located on 160 acres on Bendixson Road southeast of Prince George, Redpath takes in animals of all kinds and finds ‘forever’ homes for them. Horses, dogs, cats, sheep, and llamas are all being currently all being cared for.
Readers might remember just last month the BC SPCA seized 13 adult dogs, seven puppies and seven horses from a property in Cheslatta, south of Burns Lake. Those horses are now being nursed back to health at the ranch.
“They’ve gained a lot of weight,” says Redpath, as she shows us a couple of the horses … one with scars on its face.
Actually, the horse with scars is probably ready to be adopted out.
Another, which has lost most of his hair, is being kept in the barn, out of the sunshine that will certainly burn its exposed skin. He gets to its feet, though, and greets us as we walk into the stall. He too has gained weight in the six weeks he’s been at the Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue Society.
All of the horses seized at the Burns Lake property were infested with ticks, says Redpath.
“It’s unbelievable the number of ticks we’ve pulled off,” she says.
It’s what Redpath has been doing since 2003. It all started with a trip to a horse auction in Quesnel where she learned many of the horses there were being sold for meat. Determined to save at least one horse from the meat grinder, she purchased a young Arabian mare and brought it home.
Before long she was at another ‘meat auction,’ saving horses from the glue factory. Before long, word got out that there was someone in town who would take in unwanted horses.
“The horses started finding their way to me. I quickly came to realize the lack of alternatives for unwanted horses in the North. I decided to start advertising and become an official rescue.”
In 2010, they moved to the Bendixson Road property and branched out into dogs and cats.
“Sometimes we get just amazing animals that are not abused, people just end up in different situations … divorce is a big one or people die,” Nicola says. “They pass away and haven’t figured out what to do with their pets. A lot of dogs just come to us because people think animals are disposable.”
Animals that have been abused or neglected, however, do need some rehabilitation. For dogs, that starts with Rango, Redpath’s dog. Rango is a big, yet very calm dog. When new dogs arrive, they spend time with Rango, who has a very calming influence. Once they are calmed down, they are introduced to the other dogs at the centre. Redpath, however, is the alpha dog which means handing out discipline … and love.
“We are starting to focus a lot of education, we do the tours, kids come up from schools,” she says, which can be an eye-opener for the kids. “People sometimes think they’re going to a petting zoo … no, this is the bad side what can happen when people aren’t responsible.”
They can handle up to 10 rescue dogs, along with their own three dogs, 10 cats, and have had as many as 35 horses at the ranch.
“We're starting to make a difference with the spay/neuter programs that are going because we’re not seeing as many as we used to,” she says. “This is a business where it’s great to go out of business.”
The Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue Society relies on donations to keep operating. Redpath does have a paying job on the side, but most of her time is spent with the animals. They work with the SPCA on big seizures, like the one at Burns Lake, and have plenty of support from local residents and businesses.
“Bosley’s has been just excellent,” she says. “They put on fundraisers, help us with dog food.”
There will be a fundraiser at Bosley’s this weekend and Redpath will be putting on a bit of a petting zoo with some llamas and ponies.
And while it is the Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue Society, it doesn’t limit itself to this area.
“We reach out to all the different communities, not just Prince George based,” she says. “We’ll go as far as Terrace and Prince Rupert. Have had animals go into Alberta and just after Christmas placed an animal in Ottawa.”
She uses the society's website and social media to get the message out. Redpath says people are wonderful. She just needs to reach out, and people respond.
“We’ve been around long enough that people trust us and know that we’re a good rescue.”
And it all takes money. The society has to feed the animals it takes in and pay for veterinary bills for those who need medical attention. Donations are always welcome.
“If people want to make sure their money is going directly to the animals, our vet bill is the biggest expense for us,” she says. “We have an account at Murdoch’s (Veterinary Clinic) and people can go down and put money there, then it’s going directly to the animals.”
Or people can donate items directly.
“Carrots are gold for the horses,” she says with a laugh.
Last year Prince George Equine and Animal Rescue Society was able to help 41 dogs, 52 cats and nine horses. Since 2003 they have rescued more than 300 horses.
You can find them on Facebook or check out their website