by Jeremy Allen
It sounds like something from a movie, but it’s not.
An 1,800-pound steer being held in a pen at a meat processing plant in North Dakota narrowly escaped slaughter, freeing itself by kicking open a gate then running loose throughout the town.
Days later the steer wound up at SASHA Farm – a sanctuary for abused and runaway animals in Manchester – southwest of Ann Arbor and nearly 1,000 miles from where it had escaped in the city of Cassleton, N.D.
Immediately following the steer’s escape, it wandered around Cassleton for a while before being spotted by workers at a school and a childcare center. A worker called authorities and a veterinarian was able to tranquilize the animal for capture.
The news about the steer’s escape from slaughter spread quickly, and an animal activist group near Chicago soon got word of the rogue steer.
It was the activist group that contacted Dorothy Davies and Monte Jackson – the owners and founders of SASHA – to tell them about the animal, and SASHA agreed to take the steer.
“It was a funny story to hear about how he got away, but my husband Monte went out to North Dakota to pick it up shortly after we got the call from the folks in Chicago,” Davies said.
“Monte left late on a Friday afternoon and he was back by daybreak on Sunday. He only stopped at a truck stop in Chicago so the people who contacted us about rescuing it could meet it.”
Davies said that since SASHA does not pay money for animals, the group in Chicago had arranged some form of payment to the farmer who owned Fargo, the name given to the steer when it showed up in Manchester. He was previously known as Waldo because for a period of time no one knew his whereabouts after the great escape.
So instead of his intended future – one where he was bound to be the main course on dinner plates and at restaurants – Fargo, the 3-year-old steer, will live out his days being cared for with about 300 other rescued animals at SASHA. If he remains healthy he could live for about 20 more years, Davies said.
“He wanted to be free, and now he will be free,” said Jackson. “Well, not free — I’ll keep him fenced. But he’ll think he’s free.”
Davies said that Fargo has fit in like one of the family since day one, immediately joining the herd of other bovine rescues.
“He doesn’t trust people fully just yet because he’s never really interacted with people, but he’s not trying to hurt anyone or break out of his pen or anything. Right away he was interacting with the other steer, so he’s part of the herd and part of the family,” Davies said.
Fargo isn’t the only bovine to escape slaughter and end up at SASHA Farm. Jefferson was also an escapee on his way to slaughter in Detroit before making a mad dash more than 10 years ago and before being captured on Jefferson Avenue.
Moo is from Long Island, New York. He was on the loose for about six months, eating food from people’s gardens and living off the land before being captured.
There’s also a sheep that SASHA took in after it jumped off the back of a pickup truck in front of a Ram’s Horn restaurant as it was on its way to slaughter.
“We have about 300 (animals), a lot of which are birds, about 100 geese, ducks, roosters, pigeons and two emus; pigs, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and mules,” Davies said.
“The hardest part of running a sanctuary is having to turn animals away because we don’t have enough room or the funds to care for them. It takes about $150,000 a year to feed and provide medical care for the animals, but we do what it takes to get it done. There was no way we could turn away an animal like Fargo.”