One phone call turned into a passion for a Liberal, Mo., woman
Deanna Kafka, Liberal, Mo., has been rescuing horses for more than 25 years.
Five years ago, while on vacation, she received a phone call that changed her life. The call was a request for her to rescue two donkeys from slaughter. The horses had been rescued, but the donkeys were left behind. She said yes and brought the donkeys to Missouri.
“We brought home Flops A Lot. She was a roping donkey. We did not know she was pregnant at the time. She was literally a bag of bones. Because of her, we stopped rescuing most horses, changed to donkeys and never looked back,” Deanna exclaimed.
This was the beginning of T & D Donkey Rescue.
“We absolutely fell in love with how smart they were. They are super affectionate and very social,” Deanna said.
T & D Donkey Rescue Inc., became a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization in 2016. They are currently the only donkey-specific rescue in Missouri. They are a volunteer-based organization that is funded entirely by donations. They prefer to rescue locally, but have received donkeys from northern Nebraska to Texas.
“We try to serve our community but there have been a few times when we have found out that they were separating babies from moms. We go to the auction, buy them both and reunite them,” Deanna said.
In 2018, they took in 134 donkeys and adopted out 81.
Donkeys make great companions and are economical. Compared to a horse, Donkeys require less feed but follow the same vaccination, deworming and dental protocol.
“Donkeys do not need grain or lush grass. They can eat weeds because they are non-specific browsers by nature,” Deanna explained.
Once adopted, the donkeys will spend the rest of their life as pets, companions or are trained to pack.
“We love seeing people use their donkeys. They can pull carts or pack saddles. You can ride them, show them at halter or driving. There’s so much you can do with them and they are so much fun. Almost everything you can do with a horse, you can do with a donkey,” Deanna said.
Most of the donkeys that arrive at T & D have a history of abuse and neglect, but in some cases their owner could not afford to care for them.
“We get a lot that were used as roping donkeys. They are absolutely terrified of people and ropes,” Deanna remarked.
Deanna and her team want their donkeys to go to a loving, forever home, which is why all persons wishing to adopt a donkey must fill out an application, meet strict eligibility criteria and adhere to a notarized contract. All persons wishing to adopt must have positive working relationship with a credible veterinarian.
“We make sure they go to excellent homes. Every adoption is bittersweet because we grow so close to every single one here. Every single donkey has a name and I know them all,” Deanna said.
The dedication and love for rescuing animals radiates from Deanna when she interacts with the donkeys and shares the story of each animal.
“We are very passionate. We have the best volunteers. We absolutely adore every donkey. They are super smart and easy to train if you know how to train a donkey. You can’t train them like a horse,” she said.
All volunteers spend time with the donkeys but Rachel Trollope is the designated trainer. Most of the donkeys arrive untouchable. It takes three to six months for them to calm down and develop trust with humans.
“We handle and train every single one. Every single one is halter broke and you can pick up all four feet,” she said.
Only the trained donkeys are placed up for adoption. Not all of the donkeys are eligible for adoption due to their mental state and temperament. These donkeys remain at the rescue.
“We do have adoption fees that vary based on the donkey. All donkeys up for adoption are current on all vaccines, worming, farrier care and Coggins,” she explained.
Deanna loves to reminisce about the success stories. Two of their donkeys, Champ and Petals, generated global attention on social media. People from five continents followed Petals and wrote her letters. She was even named one of Joplin’s top 10 animals of the year.
“Funding is very hard. People don’t understand or know that donkeys are in situations they need to be rescued. Donkeys are the underdog of the Equine world. We turn away donkeys all the time,” she said.
They open their doors to a variety of volunteers, including the Easter Seals, local high school students, veterans, adults and children with illnesses and disabilities. This allows others to experience the calming aura by spending time grooming and bonding with the donkeys.