WALNUT CREEK; Calif. -- Many animal rescue groups are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic, and are making a public plea for help.
One of those groups is a Walnut Creek nonprofit, Angels for Minis, a rescue for miniature horses and donkeys.
"Our bills keep rising and our medical bills are just out of this world," said Mary Stewart, Founder of Angels for Minis. "That's where we really need help. We have not been able to have any of our fundraising events."
Since 2013, Angels for Minis has saved close to 700 miniature horses. Their mission is to rescue miniature horses from the Central United States to the West Coast from abusive situations and rehabilitate them, in hopes of finding them a forever home.
"To just think, 'how this horse is going to make it?' What we see these horses go through is heartbreaking," said Stewart. "Horses come to us completely starved, they come in and their feet are bad and curled. It's crippling them."
Angels for Minis provides essential veterinary care for all animals. The nonprofit assesses the horses for injuries, provides vaccinations, proper hoof care, dental exams and training.
Providing thorough care for miniature horses can be very expensive. During the on-going pandemic, the nonprofit has noticed a pause in donations from fundraising events.
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Angels for Minis relies solely on volunteers and donations from the community.
They tried to find creative ways to raise funds by having a garage sale in November and selling jewelry, but it has not been enough.
The volunteers at Angels for Minis are known to be the heart and soul of the miniature horse rescue and receive special training to provide the best care for the animals.
"What we do is we take in the worst of the worst. We want the ones that are in trouble and need care," said Stewart. "It is emotional, it's overwhelming, it's shocking to see the way that these horses come in, but it is really rewarding and privilege to be allowed to do this."
Angel for Minis volunteers say they are full of gratitude and are happy to make a difference in the horses' lives.
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"They have turned out to be therapy for us as well, but they are all needing of good homes," said Stewart. "All the horses here are up for adoption and when they leave here, they are ready to go to a family."
Sandra Mangrum loved horses her whole life and began to volunteering at Angels for Minis shortly after the death of her son.
"I was heartbroken after the loss of my son and I needed a way to start interacting with people in what I considered a safe environment," said Sandra Mangrum, Angels for Minis Volunteer and Adopter. "The commodore is what really drew me out, but the horses drew me in."
During her time at Angel's for Minis, she was able to adopt her own miniature horse, Scout.
In the course of Mangrum's son battle with Ewing Sarcoma, she loved how the therapy animals would bring him so much joy during a hard time.
"After seeing the interactions of my son with the animals, I knew this was my calling," said Mangrum. "This is what I needed to do. It is very near and dear to my heart."
Mangrum takes her miniature horses for walks throughout the neighborhood for exercise. She came across her neighbor who was taking care of their 100-year-old mother and asked Mangrum if her miniature horse could visit.
"That started a relationship that lasted the next six months, she had this huge smile on her face and loved the fact that she had a horse standing in her living room," said Mangrum. "That's what I need to do for the rest of my life, this (animal therapy) will be my retirement gig."
Since then, Mangrum has made it her mission to train her miniature horses to become therapy animals to provide happiness to others.
"These are loving, wonderful animals. The rewards that they have giving me is that they have allowed me to breathe again," said Mangrum. "They've allowed me to interact with people again and take part in life. I don't believe that it is me rescuing the horse, I believe that this is an equal opportunity rescue."
In hopes for donations, Angels for Minis plans to rebuild their medical barn to provide the medical needs for incoming malnourished miniature horses.
You can help Angels for Minis today by donating, volunteering, or sponsoring a miniature horse.
To donate to Angels for Minis, visit their website.