Animal sanctuary in Parrish needs volunteers, extra funding

PARRISH -- As she walked down a dirt road with supplies hanging from every limb, the sight of Jane Doherty's drenched blondish hair told a tale of the several tasks completed that day.

By the tone of her movement, however, she had barely dented the list.

But at this moment, her tiresome duties had become irrelevant.

"Belle's not doing so well," she said, her voice hinting to the gravity of the situation.

Doherty entered Belle's home and stood by her side. By now, it's apparent Belle is important to Doherty, but so are all of Doherty's friends.

All 200 of them.

At Majical Miniatures, a nonprofit, rehabilitation and release animal sanctuary and education center in Parrish, Doherty and a small group of employees and volunteers care for roughly 200 animals on site.

There aren't enough hands to fill every food dish or make every needed repair, but they make it work.

On a daily average, six or seven staff members and volunteers tend to the 200 or more animals on the 28-acre property, including deer like Belle, farm animals, llamas, exotic birds, tortoises, monkeys, kangaroos, wallabies, dogs, a skunk and one chauvinistic male turkey.

With expenses nearing $500,000 annually, the organization's funds are low, and Doherty, vice president of the sanctuary, and president and owner Ariyana Saint Jennings, are forced to pull money from

their own pockets.

"Unless we win the lottery, we're compromised with what we can do," Doherty said.

Unexpected costs, such as replacing two water heaters ($1,100) or veterinarian care for animals like Mo, a thoroughbred that was near death in December, tend to pop up. Building an education center adjacent to the sanctuary had to be put on hold.

"We could absolutely be doing better," said operations manager Jenna Forrester, who lives on the property with Jane. "We need to do more fundraising."

But there's hardly time to organize such an event.

Volunteers and donations are an immediate need.

Bradenton Police Department detective Lt. John Affolter, whose teenage daughters volunteer in the summer, offered his services as a contractor. This past week, he began constructing three new huts for the kangaroos and wallaroos at a 40 percent discount. He purposefully used his vacation time to complete the job.

"We get lucky," Doherty said of Affolter and other volunteers.

Because many of the animals on site have become too dependant upon humans, they can not be released into the wild. Lately, the facility has had to refuse taking in animals because of their tight budget. Only in certain circumstances, like the thoroughbred, who has since added 200 pounds to a previously skeleton frame, are animals accepted.

Doherty and her staff will not stop caring for animals. They won't allow Majical Miniatures to close. But they need help. So do her 200 friends.

"They don't have anyone to speak for them," she said.

Fore more information on the sanctuary, call 941-981-9121 or visit www.majicalminiatures.com.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049.