Heartless act: Horse care facility founder gutted by hay theft

Heartless act: Founder gutted by hay theft at donation-based horse care facility


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LET DOWN: Orange Horse Rescue Service's Noni McDermott (right) with volunteers Mikayla Walker, Rachel Cairns and Sadie Kimmens. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

LET DOWN: Orange Horse Rescue Service's Noni McDermott (right) with volunteers Mikayla Walker, Rachel Cairns and Sadie Kimmens. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

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"The hay was there and they were out to make a quick buck ..."

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THE owners of a Towac Park property which provides care to abused and neglected horses have been the victims of a callous and brazen crime.

Orange Horse Rescue Service founder Noni McDermott returned to her block on Thursday to discover thieves had made off with 10 bales of “priceless” lucerne hay.

Having been absent from the property for just a few hours, Mrs McDermott said her reaction to the daytime theft was one of disbelief.

“I kept looking and thinking ‘this can’t be real, people can’t do this,’ then I got so angry I burst into tears,” she said.

Thursday morning’s welcome rain meant Mrs McDermott’s two cattle dogs – which would usually be guarding the property – were locked up inside, which the devastated owner said may have prompted the opportunistic thieves to strike.

The hay was there and they were out to make a quick buck. - Orange Horse Rescue Service founder Noni McDermott

“I feel it was someone who drove in,” she said.

“They could’ve been looking for directions or looking for work. The hay was there and they were out to make a quick buck.”

Despite having the responsibility of feeding 18 horses which have been rescued from properties or given up by owners unable to care for them, Mrs McDermott said she’d have given the hay up if it were for animals in greater need than those in her care.

“They only had to come and ask and we would’ve done something. We never say no to a starving horse,” she said.

“I don’t think the thief was a horse person.”

BARELY ENOUGH: Orange Horse Rescue Service's Noni McDermott with some of her remaining feed. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

BARELY ENOUGH: Orange Horse Rescue Service's Noni McDermott with some of her remaining feed. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

While the sum total of the the loss is not massive –  each bale is worth between $24-$38 – Mrs McDermott said the drought had made hay and other horse feeds difficult to secure and afford.

Those difficulties were only exacerbated at a facility which relied on donations.

“It’s almost priceless at the moment, you just can’t get it,” she said of hay.

“To lose even this amount is a big thing for us.”

The heartless act occurred at the worst of times for the 73-year-old.

The reason for her absence from her property on Thursday was a medical appointment for her husband John, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

Despite her heartbreak, Mrs McDermott said there had been a silver lining to the darkest of clouds: an outpouring of financial support to help her enterprise stay on its feet.

The service’s account at Mullion Produce Pets and Saddlery had been topped up through donations from the Orange community and beyond, the generosity of the which had struck a chord with the animal lover.

“People from as far as Tamworth have heard and helped out,” she explained on Saturday.

“It takes a lot to surprise me but I have been blown away.”

This article first appeared in the Central Western Daily

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