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Misguided Project Used Animals

Deer used in school agriculture project found neglected

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • Four European fallow deer are now thriving at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. Holly Shaw/The HSUS

In his 10 years as an animal control officer, Henderson County, Texas, Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Ward had never seen an animal cruelty case involving neglected deer until deputies were called out to a Mabank farm one January afternoon.

There, Deputy Kyle Pochobradsky found five deer, all malnourished and weak, “without any grass to speak of,” he noted. A 19-year-old man had kept the deer at the farm with permission from its owner for a school agriculture project, but the farmer called police to report that the animals were being neglected.

Now these four rescued deer have a chance to live with other deer in a more natural setting. And now they are protected. --Diane Miller, Ranch Director

Two months later, the four surviving deer are flourishing at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in nearby Murchison, Texas, a sanctuary operated by the Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States. The deer join more than 100 other rescued deer in the Black Beauty herd, which includes Japanese Sika deer, Axis deer, White-tailed deer, as well as other European fallow deer.  

“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to help them and are glad the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office reached out to us,” said Diane Miller, director of the ranch. The 19-year-old man has since been charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000, Ward said. The case awaits disposition.

Finding sanctuary for the deer

Ward said he heard that Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch provided sanctuary for deer and called to see if they had room. It’s his duty to find homes for animal cruelty victims, he said, and he would have had to look on the Internet for another home if the sanctuary couldn’t take them. After speaking with Miller, he was assured the deer would live out the rest of their lives safely and comfortably.

“(The accused) did not have the knowledge or the funds to take care of them properly,” Ward said, adding that the deer will receive wonderful care at the sanctuary.

“They looked like they were starving to death, and they were,” he said. Sadly, one of the deer--a doe--was so malnourished that she died before being transported to the ranch.

The animals were kept at a holding facility for more than two weeks before they gained enough strength to be transported to their new home. Since their Feb. 10 arrival, the four remaining European fallow deer—a buck and three fawns—have lived in an introductory enclosure where they receive a special diet and medical care. Once they get a clean bill of health, they will be introduced to the rest of the herd to roam the 35-acres adjacent to their pen.

The large deer enclosure is set with rolling hills, woods, and a lake, and special fencing that keeps them safe from predators. Deer share the land with Barbary sheep, domestic goats, ostriches, emus, and rheas.

Most of the sanctuary’s deer residents were rescued from captive hunting operations or the facilities that supply them. Texas has the unfortunate distinction of being home to half of the approximately 1,000 captive hunting facilities that operate across the nation, Miller said.

“Deer are wild animals and should never be raised in captive situations—ever.  It’s just not in their best interest,” she added. “Now these four rescued deer have a chance to live with other deer in a more natural setting. And now they are protected.”

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