Tracy Van Pelt and other board members at the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary are hoping for a miracle.

The organization that cares for and finds homes for unwanted livestock, water fowl, dogs, cats, rabbits and even a macaw parrot recently said it may shut down unless money comes in to purchase hay to feed the animals.

Initial rumors pointed to the end of November as a drop-dead point for the sanctuary, but Van Pelt, who owns the property that houses the organization, said the time frame depends on a few variables.

“I don’t know how many days it is,” she said, “We’re running out of hay. It’s not really the date that’s important. A charity can’t continue to run in the red, or run upside down.”

With drought conditions in the Pikes Peak area, locally grown hay is “about dried up,” said Verne Bixler owner of Colorado Agri-Feed on Park Vista Boulevard in Colorado Springs.

Bixler said the price of hay has skyrocketed this year, jumping 30 percent in price from 2011. And, because of the drought, vendors in the area are looking elsewhere to keep farmers and animal rescuers supplied with feed. Right now, Agri-Feed is selling hay at $400 to $450 per ton, or $12.60 to $16.90 per bale, depending on weight and where it comes from.

According to Van Pelt, Black Forest Animal Sanctuary will need to raise about $10,000 by the end of November to purchase a semi-truck load of hay and “get through another month or two.”

The organization, which typically has about 100 animals in the program — mostly livestock — has struggled to find a steady flow of donors. Van Pelt said people tend to drop unwanted animals off and leave little or no money.

Board members have dipped into their own pockets to purchase supplies and veterinary care.
Van Pelt said she doesn’t charge rent for the organization to use her property because “when donations are slim, I make sure that money goes directly to animal care.”

The sanctuary is holding a fundraiser Nov. 23 from 4 to 10 p.m. at the Texas Roadhouse on Jackson Creek Parkway in Monument. Van Pelt said anyone can dine at the restaurant and mention the fundraiser to have 10 percent of their bill given to her organization.

While the board is developing plans for other fundraisers, the long term remedy to the situation is two-fold.

“We need to place some animals that are ready for adoption,” Van Pelt said. “We need financial support to continue to feed the animals in our care and ongoing contributions to continue the cycle.”

She said finding homes for some of the horses would make the biggest dent in the cost burden. The sanctuary has stopped taking animals in because “that would be irresponsible,” Van Pelt said, noting that the national Unwanted Horse Coalition says that “tens of thousands” of unwanted horses need homes each year.

Sanctuary volunteer Melissa Cox said, “It breaks my heart” to think the animal sanctuary might have to close.

“I really think if people knew what they did out there, they’d be able to secure the funding and continue to help animals throughout Colorado,” Cox said.

Cox said she has volunteered at other animal organizations in the Pikes Peak area, but said she prefers Black Forest Animal Sanctuary because its love for animals is reflected in the way they treat and use their workers.

“Every little thing you do counts,” Cox said, noting that her husband Shannon Cox also volunteers at the sanctuary. “And you know that your work is appreciated.”

To donate, call the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary at 494-0158, or visit

Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.