Saving the donkeys — a sanctuary takes root in Mendocino County – Fort Bragg Advocate-News

Ron King had a plan. King had recently retired from his 20-year career and ran a stable of mastheads that included InStyle, Essence and Sunset magazines.

His good friend, prominent Los Angeles art dealer and philanthropist Phil Selway, owned a property in Mendocino County, Hopland, which he wanted to sell after his plans to turn it into a shelter failed.

So King would be staying just long enough to sell the land and do something else before the dust could settle on his Gucci loafers.

HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Ron King tosses up his empty hands to show he is out of carrots when he visits a group of rescued donkeys at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, California on Wednesday June 30, 2021 . (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

Then two things happened almost simultaneously. He read an article on the plight of donkeys around the world, sold for slaughter because of the collagen in their skins. Then he saw a TikTok video about a woman who saves donkeys but has no room for her.

“Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something,” says King. “This place is beautiful and made only for animals.”

King quickly forged a proposal to keep Selway’s property and open what would become Oscar’s Place, a donkey adoption center and sanctuary named after Selway’s beloved cat. Now, seven months after opening, the sanctuary is celebrating its 20th adoption. And 55 donkeys live on the property – six permanent residents, 12 available for adoption, two pending adopters, and 35 in recovery.

It sounds like a lot, but donkeys, whose personalities are more like dogs than horses, are smart, affectionate, and – to King and many others – worth rescuing.

Ron King checks out Capucchino, a pregnant donkey he rescued from Oscar’s Place just before the birth of their week-old son Dominic. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

Oscar’s Place donkeys, rescued from a killing stall in Texas by a group called All Seated in a Barn, were on their way to slaughter, their hides coveted to meet the growing demand for a Chinese folk medicine called ejiao. Rescue groups estimate that within five years half of the world’s donkey population will be killed to aid this industry.

Many of the donkeys destined for these U.S. killing pens are ex-work animals or pets. Others are wild, rounded up – often illegally – in the state and sold to an auction company that pays $ 300 per capita. Buyers buy in bulk and pay by the pound.

The donkeys often arrive at Oscar’s Place in poor health, malnourished, and veterinary care. The male donkeys are spayed, but some of the females arrive pregnant, which means King runs a maternity ward alongside everything else.

King insists on adopting the donkeys only when they are fine, and he won’t separate mothers and babies – or best friends. Some donkeys, he says, bond very closely and would not survive without their mate by their side. When a donkey named Felix fell ill with pneumonia and had to be admitted to a veterinary clinic, his best friend came with him to keep him company.

The donkeys appear content in their sanctuary. They wander through the barn where King is working on a laptop, stopping to rest their head on his shoulder and petting him.

Ron King is hugged by Felix, one of the rescued donkeys living at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

When Amber Paz and her husband recently bought farmland in Ukiah, the first thing Paz wanted to do was adopt a donkey, but the universe was back. Instead of finding the “solo donkey” she envisioned, she met Dawn, a heavily pregnant donkey.

“I left this day with a completely different idea,” says Paz. “And of course I now feel incredibly blessed to have this experience with our cute little Harper – and even more blessed that Dawn allows me to be Harper’s other mom . “

Dawn and Baby Harper are popular pets, but the Pazes, who have three children, discovered that the donkeys also have a protective interest in three “neglected sheep” who came with their new homes.

King admits he was naive about what he was up to. He didn’t even have the right clothes for work, and much of what he has learned about running the sanctuary he received from a British group, The Donkey Sanctuary. Although he was born on an Arkansas farm, the only animals he has been with recently have been his house cats.

“And cats don’t prepare you for donkeys,” he says.

But King found his satisfaction among the donkeys that gave him something he didn’t know he needed.

“My mind was a snow globe that was constantly shaking,” says King. “I loved my career, traveling, the fashion shows, but it was here that I felt serenity for the first time. And for the first time I realized that I really wanted to. “

Oscar’s Place relies on adoption fees – $ 1,000 for a donkey, $ 1,800 for two – and donations to get through. Selway has agreed to make up for deficits for a year and gives King until January 2022 to make the sanctuary self-sufficient. He thinks he can do it. Donkeys are in great demand, he says, both as pets and to guard other farm animals such as herds of goats, sheep and cattle.

King carefully screens all potential adoptive parents and requires two visits to the sanctuary and a home inspection. Successful applicants must promise never to ride them and always give them love and care. If it doesn’t work, they can bring them back without asking any questions.

“I make a promise to the donkeys,” says King. “I promise you a good life, be it with someone else or here with us. You have earned it.”

Learn more at www.oscarsplace.org.

HOPLAND, CA. June 30th: Ron King brings some joy to the rescued donkeys living at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, Calif., Wednesday June 30th, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Ron King visits the Burros at his Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, California on Wednesday June 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Ron King pursued his career in the media industry to become a donkey rescuer as the executive director of Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, Calif., Wednesday June 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group )
HOPLAND, CA. – JUNE 30: Ron King checks Capucchino, a pregnant donkey he rescued just before the birth of their week-old son Dominic, at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, Calif., Wednesday June 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Gabriel Gonzalez serves lunch to the donkeys that live at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, Calif., Wednesday June 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Ron King visits Goose, one of the rescued donkeys who lives at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, Calif., Wednesday June 30, 2021. King, the centre’s executive director, adopted Goose. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
HOPLAND, CA. – June 30: Ron King will check to see if a recently rescued donkey is acclimatizing at Oscar’s Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary in Hopland, California on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)