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Animal home comforts at Little Acres

There can come a time when, for a variety of reasons, people need to re-home their animals. While handing over a dog or a cat is relatively simple, what do you do when you can no longer care for a cow, pet pig or goat? ANGELA KEMP reports.

Without a doubt, most small farm owners love their animals as much as city dwellers adore their domestic pets. But caring for large animals is a different kettle of fish when ignorance is far from bliss for livestock and owners alike.

L.A.R.A. – Little Acres Rescue Animals – is a registered charity dedicated to rescuing and re-homing lifestyle animals or farm pets. The four-acre lifestyle block at Te Akau near Ngaruawahia rehomes everything from traditional pets to poultry, ducks, goats, lambs, cattle, horses and rabbits.

Perfectly located in a big farming community, L.A.R.A helps lifestyle animals that are either injured, sick, surplus, or need re-homing due to change in their owner’s circumstances.

It was set up five years ago by passionate animal lovers, Barry and Jacqui Emmett, and daughter Charlea, who worked as volunteers for the RSPCA in England before moving to New Zealand. Barry used his pension from serving 32 years in the Royal Navy to develop the land for the project.

“We help to bridge the gap between farmers and the community wishing to own a farm pet on their lifestyle block,” says Barry. “It’s simply a place in the community that will take in unwanted farm animals the SPCA do not.”

One of its biggest rescues has been a herd of 117 commercial Saanens and Toggenburg dairy goats.

“It was extremely hard work,” Jacqui says. “We loaded our ute with as many as we could carry, then went back for more. On the last trip I couldn’t bear to leave another behind so I had one tucked under each arm and two on my lap. This past year we have re-homed 382 goats, from kids to adults, and elderly goats.”

Jacqui says lifestyle block holders often have difficulty finding animals for their land and L.A.R.A has become an obvious place to find a piglet or a goat. People also find it rewarding that their animals have been rescued and lives saved.

“Every life is precious and so we help where we can with what we can, but we have to be sensible and can only take in until we are full,” she says.

Ponies and horses often require a longer stay before they are ready for re-homing.

“Unhandled or neglected horses and ponies take a long time to rehabilitate, put on condition, and be ready for adoption. We work closely with them building trust, checking for underlying health issues, grooming and handling,” Jacqui explains.

“All our rescued equine are regularly vet checked, drenched, and feet checked. Once they are more manageable and given a clean bill of health we then offer them for adoption. It is time consuming and costly work.

“We don’t take in too many rescue horses, although we did help re-home 20 thoroughbreds in Cambridge. They were almost wild having been left so long so we spent four months just earning their trust, driving there several times per week until they willingly came to us for hay.”

The Emmetts have saved many orphan lambs and successfully re-homed them as pets over the years. They also take in rescued animals from Animal Control, SPCA, other rescues, farmers, and private individuals before helping to find homes for them as pets.

The sanctuary side to the farm provides a safe haven for those animals considered unsuitable for re-homing. It does not charge for intakes and takes a small adoption fee. It relies on sponsorship and donations to cover operating costs.

Maintaining the farm itself is costly and petrol costs are high, an expense borne out of the Emmett’s own pockets.

“We don’t ask for fuel to be reimbursed, or a surrender fee as standard because if ‘rescue’ is too costly some might take the easier option and put the animal down,” Barry says. “Subsequently, we soak up a lot of expense with travel costs to help the community get a farm pet safely to our rescue, with no costs to themselves.”

Petting farm popular

This year L.A.R.A opened its gates at the newly-created Petting Farm to help raise funds for its main animal rescue work.

From Thursday to Sunday each week the public can view the rescued animals for a small $5 donation (bookings essential). Children especially enjoy meeting permanent residents, Bonnie the donkey, Jake the giant goat, horses, Merlin and Uncle Nico as well as numerous chooks, ducks, rabbits and wildlife.

Barry and Jacqui Emmett say children love meeting animals they don’t see in towns and the experience helps them to develop a respect and love for them.

“We hope their hands-on experiences will help them see these animals in a more favourable light,” Jacqui says.

“Every single animal at the farm is a rescue and so we hope it will raise awareness of just how many farm animals are abused, abandoned, ignored when sick or injured and are simply unwanted when people no longer have a use for them.

“The worst abuse we see is not from farmers but from people from town who move onto a lifestyle block and haven’t a clue how to care for a farm animal, and yet that is the first thing they look for while they have a go at farming.

“They would do well to seek advice from a local farmer rather than guess, or worse, let the animal suffer. Farmers are pretty friendly and while most might chuckle at your ignorance they are often willing to impart practical knowledge if asked.”

L.A.R.A has launched a ‘Givealittle’ appeal to raise $3000 to improve safety for visitors at the petting farm. It’s also planning free monthly workshops on animal welfare.

“We are often asked how to trim goats’ feet, the best way to bath a chicken or how to treat scaly chicken legs and so on,” Jacqui explains. “We deal with lots of every day questions from current lifestyle pet owners so we felt there was a need to assist with the answers.”

Some of the rescued animals will be used for practical ‘hands on’ workshops which the Emmetts hope will give people more confidence to care for their own pets at home.

“In this way we can help educate and share our knowledge and experience with the community. After all, where do you go to learn how to trim goats’ feet?”

For more information about L.A.R.A visit the website: www.littleacresfarm.co.nz.

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