A few years ago the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham was struggling financially.
As New England’s largest horse rescue, the nonprofit farm was trying to care for more horses than it could comfortably manage, facilities were in need of an upgrade and some staff were let go. But recently, the society celebrated several milestones, including a major renovation, a budget on the rebound and the completion of 5,000 volunteer hours by some caretakers who’ve become a mainstay: inmates from the women’s prison across the street.
The 40 or so abused and neglected horses and the women who’ve been sentenced to the Maine Correctional Center share something in common, says Merris Bickford, CEO of the MSSPA.
“Some of them are broken. Yet they can recover and they can be rehabilitated and they can go on to wonderful, happy, productive lives,” she says.
This past summer, for example, Bickford says law enforcement officers in western Maine seized four horses that were in terrible condition. One required emergency medical attention. While the state launched an investigation, the society was asked to take them in. There was nowhere else for them to go.