Woman helps rescue animals in South Dakota

An AP Member Exchange shared by the Daily Republic

DELMONT, S.D. (AP) — Teresa Richardson has a motto: “Big or small, I’ll take ’em all.”

Richardson began E.T. Farms Animal Rescue in Delmont 15 years ago, The Daily Republic reported. Her sister needed help running a local restaurant.

“I came here to help, and I just fell in love with it and I stayed,” Richardson said of Delmont and South Dakota.

After purchasing acreage on the edge of town, she quickly saw the need for someone to rescue animals beyond dogs and cats. Her first rescue was a dog, but she soon began taking in hoof stock. She estimates she’s been able to help thousands of animals by also working with four other rescue organizations to help animals find homes and when she isn’t able to take an animal.

“I take the animals no one else wants,” she said of her nonprofit organization. “It takes a lot of time and patience and a lot of effort sometimes to pull them through, but once you do, that makes it all worth it.”

Right now, she has four lambs, one miniature horse and two miniature donkeys. The lambs and horse are adopted and will soon go to their new families, but the two donkeys are waiting for homes.

The donkeys — Donk and Little Man — she found at an auction. They had severe cases of mange and had not been groomed. Since bringing them in, each is on the mend.

Her first hoof stock were lambs. They often are the third of a set of triplets. A ewe can only feed two lambs at a time, Richardson said, and if a producer has 300 to 600 head of sheep, they typically won’t take time to bottle feed. She is select, too, on who adopts lambs and any of her animals.

“Too many people want to take them in to butcher,” Richardson said of the lambs. “I didn’t spend all my hard time from the time they were a day old, bottle feeding them every two hours around the clock for somebody to take them in to butcher.”

When adopting out any of her animals, Richardson has a lengthy application process to ensure an animal’s safety. She checks with veterinarians, the applicant’s references, and even calls local police departments to check whether applicants have had any issues with animals in the past.

“I’m very diligent when I choose an adopter. I’ve turned down some people and been cussed out,” Richardson said. “But, I don’t care. I’m going to do what’s best for that animal, not what’s best for me.”

Richardson has gained a great reputation and formed solid relationships with area farmers, who know she’ll take in ill, deformed, or otherwise unwanted animals, but she draws the line at bison. A woman in Washington state called her a couple years ago to take in two bison and two oxen, but she is not regulated for either animal and suggested the woman call area zoos.

Richardson has rescued ducks, potbelly and regular farm pigs, dogs, donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, and others.

Her most memorable rescue was a pig named Floppy for her huge, floppy ears.

“She was special,” Richardson said. “She would come up to the fence when she’d hear me. I’d scratch her back and she’d start dancing. She made a sound I never heard a pig make before.”

Richardson takes in dozens of puppies every year. Recently, she helped round up approximately 25 puppies in Wagner at the request of the city. Several dogs had been let loose and were starting to form packs. She also routinely has people drop animals on her doorstep, including 30 to 40 puppies within two days last fall.

“My door is always open. I’m here 24/7,” she said. “Everyone has their own story and some people fall on hard times, and that’s understandable. I’d much rather they bring animals here than drop them in a ditch.”

Last summer, Richardson saw the worst outbreak of parvovirus and distemper in the batches of animals she took in. One litter of 5-week-old puppies was particularly heartbreaking. After she got them home, bathed and fed them, one puppy acted strangely so she brought it to her vet in Mitchell. One after the other, the puppies became ill and died. She couldn’t save a single one.

They had one puppy tested and found each suffered distemper, parvovirus, coronavirus, Hepatitis C, and hookworms.

“They didn’t have a chance,” Richardson said. “But at least they didn’t die alone in the dirt. They got a nice warm bath, something to eat, and had somebody to hold them. They knew they were loved and somebody cared.”

To further help animals, Richardson needs to complete a few projects.

Her most immediate need is help with construction to create new shelters. She has already used a shipping container to make a dog kennel with heat, air conditioning and outside runs, but needs help gathering materials and labor to build other buildings. She is paying out-of-pocket for other work and construction.

“It’s hard because I’m the only one here. I divide my day between tending the animals and getting work done,” she said.