Rodeo holds fundraiser for Ranch Hand Rescue

Top: Honey Boy in June, shortly after his rescue. Bottom: Honey Boy in September after gaining 300 pounds.

The Stockyards Championship Rodeo in Fort Worth on Friday, Sept. 23 will benefit Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle. Proceeds from the rodeo will go toward the purchase of hay and feed for the gay-run farm animal rescue organization. The rodeo takes place at 121 E. Exchange Ave. in the Stockyards north of Downtown Fort Worth.

Midnite, a miniature horse that was rescued last year and fitted with a prosthetic leg, will be on hand at the Stockyards Rodeo. Midnite has inspired children who have had amputations and visited places such as Scottish Rite Hospital in Oak Lawn and a new park for children with disabilities in Houston. He’s the subject of an upcoming segment on Animal Planet.

The rescue organization takes in a variety of farm animals including horses, goats, sheep, alpacas and llamas that have been starved and abused. Owner Bob Williams works with law enforcement on confiscations of abused animals but will only take them if law enforcement prosecutes.

He said Denton County is very aggressive about pursuing animal abuse charges but some rural counties in Texas are not.

Williams said that Honey Boy, a horse seized from a property in Brownwood, is doing extremely well and has gained 300 pounds since his rescue in June. Here’s the original story about Honey Boy. Williams said the heat slowed his growth because he didn’t eat as much as he would have in cooler weather. Plus, he’s missing quite a few teeth. He still has 200 to 400 more pounds to gain.

“His color darkens as he gets healthy and loses all the bad hair,” Williams said. “He has settled in nicely. He knows he is safe and part of our family.”

To donate to ranch Hand Rescue directly, go here.

—  David Taffet

Gay-owned Ranch Hand Rescue continues saving farm animals through brutally cold weather

Starlight

Ranch Hand Rescue is a sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals. They have been removed from their current situation by a county humane officer, sheriff or law enforcement official.

In December, we wrote about a fundraiser for the organization to help owner Bob Williams feed and give the animals the medical care they need. Their goal was $10,000 and they raised more than $15,000.

“The place was packed,” Williams said.

This past week was a particularly difficult one for them because of the cold weather.

“Our animals still need their medications and feeding,” Williams said.

Frozen pipes and additional staff increased costs.

—  David Taffet

Fundraiser set to benefit sanctuary for abused horses, other animals

‘Honky Tonk for Horses’ will help pay for 35 animals now at Ranch Hand Rescue, another 22 horses now in rehab after being rescued

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

A NEW HOME | Bob Williams of Ranch Hand Rescue welcomes Midnight to his new home at the sanctuary for abused horses and other animals. Midnight is missing one hoof, and Williams said he is working on getting the animal a prosthetic leg.

Bob Williams is passionate about rescuing abused and neglected farm animals — so passionate that he and his partner, Marty Polasko, opened a sanctuary for them.

Next Thursday, Dec. 16, Williams hopes to raise $10,000 for his organization, Ranch Hand Rescue, at Honky Tonk for Horses, a silent auction being held at The Mule Barn, a sports bar in Justin, just north of Fort Worth.

Ranch Hand Rescue provides sanctuary and medical care for abused farm animals from around North Texas. Founded in April 2009, the rescue has already saved 85 farm animals — mostly horses but also donkeys, mules, llamas, pigs, a turtle and rabbits.

“We work with law enforcement on animal abuse,” Williams said. “When the owner’s arrested, we’re called in.”

Currently, Ranch Hand Rescue has 35 animals adopted into their sanctuary and 22 horses in rehab. They’re involved in four current investigations.
Williams has no sympathy for anyone abusing animals.

“When we’re involved in these cases, we work to see the owner is prosecuted,” he said.

He said he is working with legislators to fix current state animal abuse laws. Beating an animal to death is a felony in Texas, but starving an animal to death is just a misdemeanor. Williams wants that fixed.

Williams said that Ranch Hand Rescue has four components.

“Our baby is the sanctuary,” he said.

That’s where they care for animals that have lived through abuse and neglect.

Rescue is the second piece of their mission. They have put together a network of foster families throughout Texas who help them nurse animals back to health. Starvation is the biggest problem.

“We have to jump-start their digestive systems,” Williams said.  That involves giving the animals medication, special feed in small amounts and eight meals a day.

And a lot of love, Williams said.

Third, Ranch Hand Rescue is involved in working with legislators to change animal cruelty laws. But Williams stresses his organization gets no financial help from the state or local governments.

Finally, Williams said, “Because we have a sanctuary, we have groups come in — kids with AIDS, autistic children, disabled kids.”

On Saturday, Dec. 11, a group from Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, an orphanage and transitional home for abused children in Denton, will spend the day at the sanctuary. Williams said that they’ll tell the children the story of the animals and let them interact. Then Santa will arrive on a fire truck with presents.

The money raised at Honky Tonk for Horses will go directly toward care of the animals. Williams described the extent of injuries he’s currently dealing with.

“Most horses come in with worms,” he said. “One was beaten so badly her withers are broken. We want her in a home where she’ll be loved and cared for.”

A horse named Midnight came in without a hoof. Williams is making a prosthetic leg and hoping some of the veterinary cost of replacing it will be donated.

The sanctuary can accommodate about 55 sick animals that are penned, but when they become healthy and need more space, some have to be moved out.

They already have some land in McKinney and are hoping to finalize a deal on more property in Gainesville this week, Williams said.

American Pet Spa & Resort in Argyle has been Ranch Hand Rescue’s major sponsor. Polasko owns the boarding and grooming company where pets take pampered vacations while their owners are away.

Williams said a large number of customers drive out from Oak Lawn because of the extraordinary care Polasko gives their pets.

But the cost of caring for the farm animals begins with about $500 to transport an animal and several hundred dollars in veterinary bills for each animal before treatment begins. Feed and on-going care runs about $125 per animal per month.

Much of the funding has comes from the LGBT community, but as the organization expands, the need for additional funds grows.

Honky Tonk for Horses is expected to be the largest fundraiser for the organization so far. The silent auction features DVD players, race packages including hotel stays and tickets, autographed sports and Hollywood memorabilia, Rangers tickets, restaurant gift certificates and more.

Entertainment will be provided by a number of local bands.

Everybody Love Raymond actress Doris Roberts is a supporter of Ranch Hand Rescue and plans to come to Fort Worth in the spring for a fundraising event. Billy Bob’s Texas has offered to participate.

In addition, Williams said that they’ve recently hired a fundraising director and a grant writer.

Although Pet Smart doesn’t do horses as part of their retail business, through their foundation, they’ve provided volunteers and other assistance.

How successful has Ranch Hand Rescue been in saving animals from neglect and abuse? Has an animal’s suffering ever been so great that they decided to put it down?

“As long as they don’t suffer, we’ll do whatever it takes,” Williams said. “We never lost one yet.”

Honky Tonk for Horses, The Mule Barn, 218 Highway 156, Justin. Dec. 16 from 5 p.m. to closing. No cover charge.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Oat, bray, love

Gay men in Argyle, Texas, give lives to livestock with Ranch Hand Rescue

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

When Bob Williams walks into the barnyard, there’s a near stampede as miniature horses big and small, llamas and a donkey run to greet him. This is the man who’s given them a better life of love, safety and, most importantly, hope. At Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle, Texas, it’s easy to believe that animals can have such complicated feelings and emotions. You can see it in their eyes, and in the case of Ozella the donkey, hear it in her enthusiastic brays.

For the former telecom executive, rescuing farm animals was never part of his long-term plan. But a stroke in October 2007 changed everything.

“I decided it wasn’t about money any more. The stroke was pretty devastating and scary. I decided to do something I loved, but I never pictured myself with farm animals,” Williams laughs.

But that’s where he ended up. After the stroke, Williams retired and began helping out more with his partner Marty Polasko’s business, the American Spa & Pet Resort.

“Marty’s whole philosophy for the pet resort was the best of everything, Disneyland for dogs. That’s why you’ll see swimming pools, play parks and suites. When people come here, they see that it’s all about animals. It’s designed for dogs and cats. Everything he’s done is just overwhelming,” he says.

Soon, rescuing horses and donkeys became part of the equation.

“We started off saving them one at a time,” he says. “Then about a year and a half ago, a guy walked into the lobby and said he wanted to make a $250 donation to us for our animals. I thought, ‘Wow, what are we going to do with that?’ We couldn’t take his money because we’re not a private charity.”

Williams soon realized that he and Polasko were all about the animals and giving back to the community. Thus Ranch Hand Rescue was created. What started out with donkeys and horses has grown to encompass everything from neglected and abused ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, rabbits, goats, even turtles.

The goal is to rehabilitate the animals and bring them back to good health, then adopt them out into loving homes as companion animals. In a few instances, the animals remain with Ranch Hand Rescue and join the on-site sanctuary to live out their lives in comfort and safety. Goats in the sanctuary will never be milked again; horses will never be ridden; turkeys enjoy a permanent pardon from Thanksgiving dinner.

Since forming in April 2009, Ranch Hand Rescue has saved more than 85 farm animals. The efforts have required building a new barn, creating a quarantine area for the sickest of animals, hiring staff and leasing additional land, all of which is costly and ongoing.

“We get three to four calls per week from people reporting possible abuse or neglect,” Williams says. Cases are turned over to the sheriff’s department and investigated before Ranch Hand Rescue is tapped to make an assessment. In most cases, people are given the opportunity to take corrective action to bring their animals back to health, but that often never happens.

During a recent tour of the facility, a call came in to Williams from Deanne Murillo, an animal cruelty investigator making a site visit to a farm. Neighbors had complained that they’d noticed horses that were tied to a fence post with a rope, limiting their ability to run and roam. They appeared seriously malnourished with no access to food or water.

“There was not a blade of grass on their property,” Murillo says. “The [owners] were very nice to me, but things were all very iffy. There were 20 or more puppies there, too. Some were walking on three legs and had sores on their bodies.”

Bob Williams
FARM  TEAM | Bob Williams, right, tends to Lips, an abused horse; Ozella the donkey, facing page, enjoys a good life now. (Photos by Steven Lindsey)

The horses in particular were suffering though.  “I’m going to go back and check in three weeks and if things haven’t improved, they could have their animals seized,” Murillo says. “I left copies of the law, I read the law to them, I told them where they were in violation and we don’t want to take their horses.”

Even though the family was cooperative and seemed concerned, it was doubtful things would improve. That’s when Ranch Hand Rescue would rescue the horses, adding the new horses to four others currently in the quarantine barn.

“This is Lips,” Williams says walking up to a stall. “He’s a stallion that needs to be gelded. He has severe nerve damage to the face. Lips was beaten, so he’s skittish.”

Indeed, Lips immediately cowers, moves to a far corner and begins to shake. He won’t even look up because there’s somebody else there besides Williams, whom he’s just barely beginning to trust.

“One of the ways we get them to get used to people, I take a lawn chair and I come in and sit down. The best way for them to rebuild their trust with humans is to spend time with them, so I’ll bring a newspaper or magazine or the Dallas Voice and just hang out. He’s getting a little better, but only time will tell if the nerve damage is permanent.”

It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories and see the fear in an animal’s behavior, but simply seeing Williams’ passion for the animals prevents the mood from being one of sadness. Instead, there’s a palpable energy of healing and compassion. Perhaps it’s because this former executive who never dreamed of this new life has clearly been won over by the beasts in his care. He calls each animal by name, softening his voice and cooing like a doting father to a newborn child.

“Hi there, Sweetie! Come to daddy,” he calls to the horse. “It just brings tears to your eyes. There’s no reason any person or animal should have to go through this,” he says as Lips finally raises his head and slowly makes his way to the front of the stall, stopping halfway. It’s progress, but just barely.

Rehabilitation can be a very slow process and patience is paramount, which Williams and his staff have in abundance. Spending time with the animals that have been brought back from the brink of starvation is all it takes, however, to understand that it’ll all be worth the wait. And in the end, Ranch Hand Rescue is the best place any of these animals could ever hope to be.

The cost to maintain one horse averages $3,000/ year. Donations can be made either to Ranch Hand Rescue, Inc., 8827 Hwy 377S Argyle, Texas 76226 or online at RanchHandRescue.org. Tours available Saturdays, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Volunteers always needed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay-owned animal rescue needs your help

Ranch Hand Rescue, Fannin County
Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle has taken these sick horses from Fannin County into custody.

Bob Williams, founder of the nonprofit Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle, is looking for some help funding his facility for neglected farm animals. And he’s hoping to get it by Saturday.

Williams said Ranch Hand Rescue is at about the $1,000 mark with a goal of $5,000. He said he and his animals are hoping to make up that difference within the next few days. The thing is, he’s been too busy saving animals to really focus on fundraising.

“We work with law enforcement and the courts and so we’ve been so busy with animal seizures and preparing the court papers,” he says. “It’s so much work.“

By seizures, Williams means obtaining animals in poor and neglected conditions. Ranch Hand Rescue handles farm animals such as horses, fowl, sheep and the like. Currently, the rescue has more than 85 animals that it’s nursing back to health or giving a serene sanctuary to live out the rest of their days. But funds to take care of this large quantity of animals are starting to come out of the rescue’s general operating fund. They were just awarded custody of five sick and malnourished horses, shown above, from Fannin County. The horses are undergoing testing to determine the rescue’s next step.

“We can get 3-4 calls a week regarding an animal,” Williams says. “The cost for the horse we took last Thursday is over a thousand and that’s with huge discounts from the vets. Medical costs are just through the roof.”

Ranch Hand Rescue has been holding a 50/50 raffle sponsored by the American Pet Spa and Resort (owned by Williams’ partner of 24 years, Marty Polasko) with the winner being drawn Saturday at 6 p.m. And if you don’t know what a 50/50 raffle is, you’re not alone. Williams explained it to me.

“So if we sell a thousand tickets at a dollar, then the winner would get $500 and the rescue would get the other half,” he said. “Of course, we’d love if the winner donates his or her winnings to Ranch Hand Rescue!”

And if they reach their goal of $5,000, well, you can do the math. Williams said he’s trying to reach out to big-city LGBT communities.

“I know our community is always supportive of animals and animals rights,” he says. “I’d like to reach out to organizations like the folks at the TGRA rodeo folks to see if they can help us raise awareness and give us exposure.”

We’re hoping for that collaboration only so they can use this as a theme. Original, nah, but still. To purchase tickets or make a donation, visit Ranch Hand’s website.

—  Rich Lopez