- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

ODENTON, Md. | (AP) Wendy Cozzone shares her space off a rural road here with 14 goats, five sheep, two miniature horses, several ducks, a few rabbits, a pig or two, a couple of border collies, her husband and occasionally a few cats.

Her place is Cherylbella Livestock at Cheryl’s Rescue Ranch.

This is where the animals will spend the rest of their lives. Some came to Mrs. Cozzone because of a bad decision - consider the pygmy goat from Brooklyn Park, whose owner decided he was a better investment than a lawn mower.

Others are like Anna, a large black goat. Abused before arriving and frightened when she first came to the ranch, Anna ran away from everyone. But Anna has since opened up a bit and, much like a cat, rubs her face and horns up against people.

The rescue ranch, however, is suffering in the recession. Charitable donations have fallen about 50 percent because people can’t be as generous. It’s also more expensive to take care of animals, so more people abandon theirs and send them to the ranch. In the past year, food costs have doubled.

Mrs. Cozzone’s construction contracting business, a major source of cash for the rescue ranch, has slowed. The biggest income comes from her two border collies, who chase away Canada geese. “They work for the government,” Mrs. Cozzone said.

She has contracts with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and public schools in Howard and Montgomery counties to chase the birds off their grounds.

The number of calls for help at the ranch continues to grow. “So far I haven’t had to turn anybody down,” Mrs. Cozzone said.

She has a little help with food costs. Four times a week she goes to the Bloom supermarket in Piney Orchard for crates of past-its-prime produce. The food can’t be sold, so the store gives it to the ranch.

“How much perfect recycling is that? Instead of putting it in the trash, they give it to animals,” Mrs. Cozzone said.

Otherwise, Mrs. Cozzone said she depends on donations to maintain the 22-acre ranch, sheds and pens, as well as to pay veterinary bills.

Animals generally end up in rescue ranches like Mrs. Cozzone’s through referrals and Anne Arundel County Animal Control.

When animal control gets involved with livestock like those at the ranch, it’s usually because the animal has gotten loose. Abuse is less often an issue, but it does occur.

An escaped farm animal usually means there is an owner in pursuit, eager to recover it, according to Nick Haynes, kennel supervisor for animal control.

Sometimes, though, nobody will come forward to claim the wayward pig or goat. This is when rescue operations become involved, he said.

“The big thing for us, a goat gets out and after five days, if we can’t find an owner and nobody comes to redeem it, we find a person to take it,” Mr. Haynes said.

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