After making many phone calls and sending many emails over the last few days, I’ve come to the difficult conclusion that there’s no easy answer.

In my internet search for information about donkey roping, I came across Forever Home Donkey Rescue in Benson, Arizona. John and Tish Hiestand run a private sanctuary and have quite a few ex-roping donkeys in their care.

Tish was very kind to share some valuable words of wisdom. I think she eloquently summed up the issue:

As you are finding out it “ain’t” easy & there is very little if any resources out there to actually help the donkeys.  The first problem is donkeys, actually all equines are classified as livestock, rather than companion animals like dogs & cats.  Consequently they are under different laws & regulations.  In Arizona as in most western states all that is required for them is food & water.  It actually says nothing about “adequate”.  Or shelter from the sun or bad weather.  In Arizona if the animals are still standing even if they are a rack of bones, if there is a flake of hay on the property or an inch of filthy water in a container they will apprise the owner that they need to do better & leave, not to return unless someone complains again. 

It’s not going to get much better until the law is changed to have equines come under the same laws as dogs & cats.  As you can imagine in ranching states this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, as the ranchers don’t want “do-gooders” coming in & telling them how to do their business…

…Sometimes you have to think “one at a time”, as in this case.  Yes they might go out & get another donkey, but that doesn’t make this one any less worth saving.

Many of you asked how you can help. If you live in an area where donkey roping is practiced, or where you feel equines need more protection, laws will need to be changed. If you’d like to voice your opinion and your desire to have laws changed, contact your local elected officials.

Another group I spoke with was Animal Protection of New Mexico. They are not lawmakers, but they get involved in certain issues – the largest and perhaps most broad issues that affect many people throughout the state.  On a positive note, their sister organization, Animal Protection Voters, has been in Santa Fe for the entire current legislative session trying to amend the State Statute on Animal Cruelty – strengthening the law to make it easier and more clear for law enforcement and DA’s to charge and prosecute people who commit acts of intentional violence toward animals as a fourth degree felony.

This isn’t the answer I wanted either. As a start though, I’m drafting a letter to our local county commissioner, and I’d sure appreciate your help with it. If you’d like to help, just let me know and I’ll email you a draft for editing.


Update from Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Albuquerque Journal 



N.M. Law Must Address, Stop Animal Cruelty



Executive Director, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters


For decades, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection voters have been examining and challenging the root causes of historic and widespread animal cruelty in the state, rolling up our sleeves and offering humane and workable solutions to communities. There are significant hurdles that lie between today’s reality and a brighter future for animals who depend on us for virtually every aspect of their well-being.


To be sure, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters work to see strong laws enacted and enforced in New Mexico. Most New Mexicans uphold improved animal protection laws passed in recent years, knowing they protect people and animals. The incontrovertible link between animal cruelty and family violence makes crimes against animals a serious social welfare issue for our time.


Over a decade’s worth of animal cruelty cases have demonstrated that the state’s cruelty statute – not significantly upgraded since 1999 – needs to clearly address conduct often treated as minor crimes today. We aim to ensure there are consequences for egregious and reckless acts against animals: starving a dog to death on the end of a chain; cutting off a puppy’s ears with scissors; letting dogs be eaten alive by maggots; abandoning a mother dog and her puppies to die of starvation; and neglecting and starving a horse to the point where her outgrown hooves force her to stand on gangrenous fetlocks, leading to muscle atrophy, constant pain and her death.


These are willful acts that caused unimaginable suffering and which most people could not stand to witness. All of these cases occurred in New Mexico, and all were considered to be the least serious kind under current state law.


Sen. Richard Martinez’s Senate Bill 348 and Rep. Al Park’s House Bill 319 currently being considered in the 2011 legislative session would further protect animals from cruelty like that described above, conduct that should be earnestly confronted. The bills also would make the heinous crime of bestiality a fourth-degree felony.


But changing the laws is not the entire answer. That’s why Animal Protection of New Mexico provides program services that help people make kind and responsible choices so animals are given relief on the ground, where it matters. For example, Animal Protection of New Mexico partnered to create a statewide Equine Protection Fund that provides temporary feed assistance for horses in families affected by an economic downturn, assistance for the costs of equine euthanasia and is currently planning its first low-cost gelding clinic.


In just six years, Animal Protection of New Mexico has subsidized over $80,000 worth of training to animal control officers across New Mexico, helping them obtain professional training essential to this important job, but which their communities often cannot afford. Further, Animal Protection of New Mexico is working with the N.M. Department of Public Safety to train therapists to effectively treat those who are cruel to animals, as punishment alone is not an effective remedy. Animal Protection of New Mexico’s website ( has available a comprehensive list of statewide resources for those who are experiencing problems with animal issues, and those without Internet service can call our hot line (1-505-265-2322, x29) for help.


Most New Mexicans do care for their animals and go to lengths to treat them with respect and stewardship. But rare outliers commit unacceptable acts of cruelty, and these cases cannot and should not be ignored.


Animal Protection Voters urges New Mexicans to support SB 348 and HB 319, measures that appeal to our sense of decency and invoke our empathy for animals. The common theme from thousands of calls our hot line receives every year is that compassion and personal responsibility, combined with the will to make positive change happen, make our state a more humane place for everyone.