Boone County exotic animal rescue organization hosts fundraiser
BOONE COUNTY - D&D Farms, a non-profit organization that rescues exotic animals, held one of its two yearly open houses Sunday at its farm on Creasy Springs Road north of Columbia. These are the only times the farm is open to the general public.
The farm includes a lion, tigers, an emu, panthers and foxes, among other animals. Dale Tolentino, who owns the farm with his wife Deb, said most of the animals were rescued from abuse or abandonment.
"It's heartbreaking," Tolentino said. "One mountain lion that we have was only being fed and watered one day a week and she was in really bad shape when we got her."
Tolentino said people often abandon exotic animals after they grow too large for them to be properly taken care of. The animals then either end up at rescue organizations, used for canned hunts or are euthanized. He said raising funds is a constant struggle for the farm.
"We're not complaining, we do without because we do the best we can with the funds that we have," Tolentino said. "We just hope we can keep doing it."
The USDA threatened to shut down the farm in 2012 due to violations, but the farm was able to pass inspection and stay open after volunteers helped make repairs. Tolentino said roughly $4,000 in USDA fines hurt the organization.
"The fines the USDA has placed on us have really hurt us," Tolentino said. "We just don't have the money."
Tolentino said the farm is the only place in the Columbia area that can take in exotic animals. He said D&D Farms regularly gets calls from the humane society, animal control and area law enforcement agencies when issues involving exotic animals arise.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Tolentino says the next open house should be around September.]