At D-D Farm near Columbia, Missouri, more than 200 rescued pets and wild animals are living safe, happy lives. Run by Dale and Debbie Tolentino, the farm takes in animals of all stripes, from cows and orphaned raccoons to a 500-pound African lioness. And they do it purely for the love of animals. Both Dale and Debbie have regular “day jobs.” This is what they do in their spare time.
With care and skill, they rehabilitate the native wild animals that can be mended, and release them back into the wilderness. If a wild animal can’t be released, the Tolentinos either find a permanent home for it or let it live out its life at the farm. Exotic animals stay at the farm. These animals are usually impossible to place with zoos, and they’re too big or dangerous to keep as pets, so there really isn’t any other option.
It’s illegal for people to own dangerous exotic animals, and in many states it’s also illegal to own a wild animal of any kind (even birds like crows or robins). But many people don’t know this, and they get a animal without knowing how to take care of it once it reaches full size. Every year, people adopt baby raccoons and other animals, thinking that they’re sweet and cute—only to turn the animal loose later on when it gets to be a handful. If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, call the Humane Society or your local Department of Fish and Wildlife. They can connect you to your local wildlife shelter.
Dale and Debbie got started with rehabilitation 27 years ago. They have permits from the USDA to keep their animals, and they also have a local veterinarian who visits the farm regularly to tend to the animals and give them check-ups.
Without caring people like the Tolentinos, hundreds of native wild animals would die every year from lack of care. And because humans are usually the cause of the animals’ injuries (from cars, cats, and increased development), it just seems right that people would step in to solve the problem. The same goes for exotic animals, creatures that never asked to become pets in the first place. They’re just looking for a safe place to live out their lives, and that’s exactly what they find at D-D Farm.