COLUMBIA — For Dale and Deb Tolentino, dinnertime at D&D Animal Sanctuary and Rescue comes down to simple math. Four hungry tigers plus one deer carcass equals not a trace of bone, fur or flesh left over by the end of the meal. Add three lions, three mountain lions and a wolf pack, and that’s a lot of carnivorous mouths to feed.
“It takes everything we have to do it, but we do it out of love,” Dale said. “The animals are our No. 1 priority, but right now we are really struggling.”
For those wishing to donate food, money, or time, the Tolentinos can be reached at (573) 446-0648, or at the sanctuary located at 6000 N. Creasy Springs Road*.
Fortunately for the Tolentinos, help arrives each winter from an unlikely source: Missouri’s avid hunting community.
The sanctuary has received 25 deer so far this season from local hunters such as Tom Darrough, who began bringing his extra meat to the Tolentinos five years ago.
“I had more meat than I could use one year, and a friend of mine told me about this place I could take it and feed a lion,” Darrough said. “I didn’t believe him.”
After visiting the sanctuary, Darrough was moved by the Tolentinos’ dedication and felt compelled to give. He has recruited five friends over the years, and each person tries to donate one or two deer per season.
“Whatever arrives we’re tickled as hell to get,” Deb said. “There are quite a few hunters who donate, and they’re great. We really appreciate them.”
Darrough has lingered at the sanctuary to see exactly where his donation ends up. Donated deer carcasses are cut into quarters and thrown into the animals’ enclosures to make sure nobody comes between a hungry set of fangs and their intended target.
“That’s the best part for me, just getting to watch them,” Darrough said of D&D’s large carnivores. “They are such amazing, powerful animals. Being there with them is really incredible.”
With no outside funding, the Tolentinos keep their sanctuary running on Dale’s paycheck from the Columbia Post Office and Deb’s income as a part-time veterinary technician. Donations help fill out the shoestring budget, but this year has been slow.
“We have no reserve,” said Dale. “Every penny, every bit of food goes to the animals. We are here for them, and their health and well-being comes before everything else.”
Many of the animals in the Tolentinos’ care were abused or neglected before arriving at D&D, and the Tolentinos have made it their mission to provide each one with the best possible quality of life for the rest of that animal’s life.
“They really aren’t our animals,” said Dale. “They are God’s animals that we have been honored to take care of.”
The Tolentinos welcome donations in any form at any time of the year.