Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and Doris Day Equine Center hosted their Spring Open House on April 12 and April 19.  Located in Murchison, these entities are both non-profit organizations that specialize in rescue, adoption and providing sanctuary to the unadoptable.

BBR is only open to the public during it's Spring and Fall Open House, while Doris Day Equine Center is opened year-round, Tuesday through Saturday. 

Director Ben Callison proudly states these facilities are national destinations and serve as the flag ship for the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals. 

On this beautiful spring day Saturday, hundreds of individuals and families were exploring, asking questions and enjoying all the animals.  Staff and volunteers were at every area, eager to answer questions and to educate the public.

The long-term goal is to transform animal lovers into advocates for animals so that one-day, rescues and sanctuaries for neglected, abandoned and abused animals will no longer be needed. 

In the meantime, distinct areas are being created for the animals that call BBR home.  The largest of these areas is for the over 600 equine residents, horses, donkeys and ponies that will live out their lives on the ranch.

Another area will be for farm animals, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys and others.  The research area will house the primates rescued from medical testing, and of course, the wild-life area, to include buffalo, water buffalo, bobcats, ostriches, antelope, turtles, lizards, and far too many other species to name.

Artists’ renderings of the new Big Cat Sanctuary, currently under construction, were prominently displayed.  Forty acres were purchased for this project, and the first phase is set to open in June 2014.   Callison and his staff were all eager to share the stories of the tigers who will be the first to inhabit this new domain.

Several paintings of the tigers were on display. Also displayed were several paintings in which the tigers themselves had painted with their paws.

"We need people to hear the animals’ stories," said Callison. 

Educators are brought to the ranch to learn the stories to take back to the students, so when they visit, they will be familiar with their stories.

Staffer Rebecca Cisneros believes that the recently-departed Kitty has the saddest story of all the animals at BBR.  As a research Chimpanzee, Kitty was also bred many, many times, and on each event, her baby was taken from her for more research. When people brought infants or very small children to her enclosure, she would put her hands through the bars, and beg for the baby, a move that was considered heart-breaking. 

Great progress has been made with the chimps, and will no longer be used for research.  Most of them will go the Chimp Haven in Louisiana, according to Callison, and with the loss of Kitty, consideration is being given to adding another chimp.

Vet Tech Dee Owen was busy giving tours of the new veterinarian hospital.  Standing in front of the mural of Babe, the last living elephant at BBR, she found it difficult to speak of this wonderful creature as the hospital had once served as Babe's house. 

Touring the hospital, Owen pointed out the operating room, treatment rooms, digital x-ray equipment and even a moving padded wall to safely lay a horse down prior to surgery. 

Dr. Dickie Vest has been hired as a full-time equine vet, with consultant specialty vets being brought in as needed.  Plans are to establish an intern program, and a fourth-year vet student program in the near future.

Callison answered the question: Where do all these animals come from?  He explained that HSUS has its own seizure teams, and operate five care centers, three rehab facilities and the Duchess equine facility throughout the nation.  BBR will be the final destination for the majority of these animals. 

HSUS works with law enforcement, handles the legal and court proceedings for the seizures, and supports local SPCAs.  Rarely do they handle surrenders, unless it involves exotics. The individual must adhere to the agency's guidelines, and promise to never purchase another exotic.  Some states allow the purchase, and keeping of exotic animals, and Texas is one of them.  It is estimated there are more tigers in private collections in Texas than are in the wild.

BBR receives many calls from people wanting to adopt donkeys, and according to Callison, it is something they are considering, since the ranch began with the rescue of donkeys from the Grand Canyon. 

The ranch operates on donations and volunteers.  There are many ways to donate and to volunteer.  Information and applications are available on their website

Callison indicates their database has over 200 volunteers, but the core of active volunteers is about 50, and some come from as far away as Dallas and Houston. 

A pathway is under construction outside the new visitors center where your pets can be immortalized on a brick for a donation.  Another way to help for those who use online shopping is to go to  to find out which stores will donate a portion of your purchase to the shelter of your choosing.

Bus tours and hay rides are popular with attendees, and a great way to see the sanctuary.  Drivers narrate during the tours, and impart some very interesting stories along the way.  Shuttle busses transport attendees between BBR and Doris Day Equine Center, where adoptable horses were available for interaction.  Training demonstrations were carried out all day. 

The visitors’ center has brochures, volunteer applications, water fountains, restrooms and a great gift shop to find a memento of your day.

Both facilities have Facebook pages, and they invite you to LIKE their pages.

For additional information,  call 903-469-3811.

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