It started with a single horse named Andi. When Rosa Buonomo first met the 20-year-old mare, she was in serious trouble, struggling to fight off a raging infection and suffering after years of neglect. “I called every rescue organization I could find, but no one would help her,” Rosa recalls, “so, I ended up taking her on myself.”
It proved to be a transformative decision, leading Rosa to launch SBF Animal Rescue in 2014. Four years and 87 horses later, Rosa continues to open her heart – and her farm – to abused animals of stripes. “Our motto is ‘big or small, we take them all,’” she says with a smile. True to her word, SBF has been home to pigeons, deer, peacocks, emus, geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, cows – even pheasants and a fox.
For Rosa and the volunteers who help keep SBF going, the goal is to rehabilitate the abused animals, then place them with caring families. But, she admits, some animals are just too damaged to leave SBF. “I’ve had horses that are so starved, they can’t even walk,” she laments. Fortunately, most animals that find their way to SBF thrive under Rosa’s care.
It’s not just animals that flourish on the 26-acre farm. In 2017, SBF partnered with the local school district to connect special educations students with the organization’s work. Katherine, a school social worker and SBF volunteer, helped create the “Helping Hands” program, which combines classroom learning with on-site visits to the animal rescue farm.
“Horses and kids are a good combination, both for learning and healing,” Katherine explains. “The horses perk up when the school bus comes, and the kids made huge gains behaviorally, socially and emotionally.” As part of the program, the children planted a garden, learned about animal anatomy and health, and even wrote letters to their horse “pen pals.” But the biggest benefits went beyond academics.
“Too often, these kids feel like no one believes in them, no one hears them,” Katherine continues. “But coming here, they realized they had a purpose: to care for and become advocates for these animals. That was the surprising takeaway for me, the kids found a place where they really belonged.” The neglected animals who are nursed back to health at SFB Animal Rescue would surely agree.