This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on March 11, 2020.
Bob Williams is a rescuer of broken animals and broken people, with a heart as big as Texas.
In 2008, Williams began Ranch Hands Rescue, located in Denton, Texas, with a mission to bring together abused and neglected animals with abused and neglected people. It’s a place for those who’ve fallen through the cracks.
As a last hope for neglected and abused farm animals, Ranch Hands Rescue saves, rehabilitates and provides a safe and loving home to animals who would otherwise be euthanized.
In turn, the animal sanctuary provides a healing environment for abused people from severely traumatized children, battered women, veterans, and those with other mental health issues and are left with nowhere else to turn, regardless of their ability to pay.
According to Williams, a special bond forms between abused animals and people. They share the trauma of a deeply broken spirit and, sometimes, an equally broken body. As part of the the Equine and Animal Assisted Counseling (EAAC) program, Ranch Hands Rescue nurtures a path toward healing for both.
The generous and giving Texan wanted to expand his reach when he started Bob’s House of Hope. It’s the first of its kind in that it’s devoted exclusively to male victims of sex trafficking who, Williams feels, are severely underrepresented. It’s estimated that boys and men may represent nearly 50% of total sex trafficking victims.
Williams is currently part of Governor Greg Abbott’s strategy team to develop long-term solutions for boys and young men who are exploited and trafficked.
How do the rescued animals help people in need?
We only take animals who have been through severe abuse, with most coming from law enforcement because they’ve been seized from terrible living conditions. There’s a bond that’s created and it’s like magic. The animal, who’s been through so much, is able to sense the challenges a child or an individual has gone through. People will tell things to an animal they won’t tell in a typical counseling environment. A horse, for example will mirror your behavior. You can’t lie to a horse.
How long does it typically take to rehabilitate these animals?
It really just depends, but anywhere from six months up to two years. The cases we take in are animals with broken jaws and severe cases of cancer or different types of diseases. We have a dog with three prosthetic legs and a horse with one. All our animals have special needs and there’s not a healthy one in the group.
Which type of animal is the most challenging to rehabilitate?
They’re all equally challenging because they can’t tell you what they’re feeling. Goats and sheep go downhill really fast. There’s sometimes underlying conditions with these animals you typically can’t see. You have to monitor every animal every day.
What happens if you’re unable to rehabilitate an animal?
I come from the school that you can’t “un-euthanize” once you’ve euthanized an animal. If there’s 15 % hope, then I’ll go the course and 75% of those cases are successful. You have to give them a chance. If you don’t try, it’s not going to happen. When there’s no hope, the right thing to do is to euthanize them for their quality of life. We have a goat with a broken neck and everyone tells me to euthanize her, but she’s one of our best animals in counseling and so amazing with the kids. She’s happy and healthy and she has a right to a full and productive life. I think the “throw-aways” are just as valuable as the healthy ones.
How many different animals do you usually have at one time?
We have horses, Alpacas, miniature horses, chickens, dogs, and cats. We never know what we’re going to get in or what their issues will be.
How much does it cost to rebahibilate one animal?
Our vet bills are typically about $25,000 a year and on top of that we have staff. When you factor in the feed, medicine and staff, it’s over $200,000 a year. We always need reliable volunteers to help with medication and helping feed the animals.