Wounded wildlife

Wednesday, December 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:02 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If it has fur or feathers, Dale and Deb Tolentino have probably cared for it.

The owners of D-D Farm Animal Sanctuary and Rescue make their livelihood by rescuing and rehabilitating animals.

“It all started when our neighbors brought us three baby squirrels to nurse back to the wild,” said Dale Tolentino.

The sanctuary soon grew to 50 animals and today shelters about 100 on the couple’s 40 acres. Licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, D-D Farm works with the police, fire departments, state conservation officials, federal authorities, animal control and the community to take in wildlife from across Missouri and parts of the United States.

D-D Farm takes on the responsibility for each animal’s health. About 98 percent of the Missouri animals it receives are returned to the wild.

Not every animal can return to the wild. Exotic wildlife that people had kept as pets or purchased illegally usually are cared for and live out their days at the farm. A Bengal tiger, now named Zeus, came to D-D Farm two years ago severely malnourished and abused by his previous owner. Zeus is now a healthy tiger but has never known the wild.

The animals native to Missouri can be adopted once they are nursed back to health. Domestic farm animals such as horses, donkeys, emus, pigeons, llamas and ducks are up for adoption.

For those who don’t want to adopt, D-D Farm has a sponsorship program. Sponsors receive a photo and an update on the animal twice a year. In addition, they may visit the animal once or twice a year.

“When we released a red fox that was hit by a car, it took us about three weeks to get him back to health,” Dale said. “Then when we released him, he darted right out of the cage and ran up a hill like a red flame. If I were a wild animal, I’d rather have one day in the wild than the rest of my life in captivity.”

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