Turkeys, a sheep, miniature horses and hogs, oh my
Feathers, fur always flying for city’s animal control officers
Two white turkeys recently escaped becoming Thanksgiving dinner after animal control officers found the birds roosting near a playground in South Richmond.
“We jokingly unofficially pardoned the turkeys the day we picked them up,” said Rob Leinberger, Richmond’s Animal Care and Control supervisor, who, along with a colleague, wrangled the turkeys earlier this month.
The shelter immediately took to social media hoping to find their owners, or a new home, and making light of the bizarre encounter.
“The world is a crazy place right now and 2020 is real. We have two turkeys-if
not reclaimed they will need a home. NOT a home where they will be eaten,” a post on the Richmond Animal Care and Control Facebook page read. “They are sweet and huggable and need to live with people that will knit them sweaters when it gets cold.”
The pair of poultry added to what was already an interesting week for the shelter. The day before, animal control had rescued amale sheep wandering on Hey Road, also in South Richmond.
“We were joking that we were depleting Old MacDonald’s farm that week,” Leinberger said.
While Leinberger and his colleagues typically handle dogs and cats, it’s not unusual to get a call about the occasional stray farm animal. Livestock is rare in the city, Leinberger said, but is allowed in a few areas zoned agricultural.
“They’re actually kind of normal— my normal,” he said.
Besides the turkeys and the sheep, which the shelter’s staff named Baba Blondesheep, Leinberger’s officers have herded a cow named Buttercup, a trio of miniature horses and two hogs in the past year and a half.
Smaller critters can stay at the shelter until they are reclaimed or adopted, but larger quadrupeds get a stall at the Richmond Police Department Mounted Unit’s horse barn off
“We’re always waiting to see what the next thing will be,” said Sgt. Anthony Paciello, head of the unit.
Paciello said the animals housed in the unit’s barn recently have been similar enough to horses that they haven’t required many resources beyond what they already have.
“We know our limits and what we can handle,” Paciello said, adding that the unit would call a veterinarian if any of the animals required medical attention.
Some of the animals have been well cared for, and most are comfortable around humans, suggesting that they were someone’s pet, he said. Baba Blondesheep, the sheep that Paciello said “talked a lot,” bonded with him quickly.
“For whatever reason, he liked me. He followed me around everywhere when we let him out,” Paciello said.
The guests are introduced to the resident four-legged cops, Scooter, Toby, Aslan and Jimmy, so they can get a good look, and sniff.
“It’s a great benefit for us: Having different animals helps expose our horses to conditions they might find out on the street. Of course, we don’t ever expect the run into sheep on the streets of Richmond,” Paciello said.
But clearly, in 2020, anything is possible. Those turkeys, they had lice, Leinberger said.
“Lice ... turkey lice ... that wasn’t in the manual,” Leinberger said.
He encourages anyone looking to become a pet owner to understand what it takes to care for that animal, and if it becomes too much, don’t just let the animal loose, Leinberger said.
While the shelter has remained closed through the pandemic, adoptions are being scheduled by appointment. To contact Richmond Animal Care and Control, call (804) 646-5573.
The two turkeys, as well as the other farm animals mentioned, were put out to pasture, literally: They have all relocated to farms where they can live without fear of becoming dinner or abandoned.