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COVID-19 impacting Naples horse rescue

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Posted at 5:09 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 05:14:40-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla -- A local horse rescue says the impact COVID-19 has had on its operations is substantial, and only getting worse.

Track to Trail Thoroughbreds in Naples rescues and rehabilitates ex-racehorses. COVID-19 is only bringing in more horses who need help, but the resources they have to do so are taking a hit.

“We are a 100% volunteer organization. We have some people who are a little older that have compromised immunity issues, people who have to take care of their kids now, who have elderly parents and need to reduce their exposure. So for a variety of reasons, our volunteer hours are way down.”

Way down and creating a number of problems for the horses that it rescues! Executive Director Cynthia Gilbert explained to Fox 4’s Jessica Alpern that now more than ever, the non-profit needs your help!

“We still are operating out here, still need volunteers. We are considered essential because we’re caring for animals,” she said.

And Track to Trail said social distancing is no problem when it comes to the work they do.

“We've been practicing social distancing since before it was popular. We have a lot of room here. On average, might be 50-100 feet apart from each other,” said Gilbert.

And for the limited equipment like wheel barrels that volunteers do have to touch, they're requiring people to wear gloves, and are cleaning frequently. But the shortage of volunteers is just the start of obstacles they're trying to overcome.

“In order to get ready for hurricane season, we wanted to do some improvements and put in a hurricane proof shelter for them. But our big annual fundraiser we've been planning has now been moved back probably until Fall, which is after hurricane season,” said Gilbert.

Having spent the past two years rebuilding after Irma, they're fearful for what will happen if they're not ready.

The pandemic is also impacting horse tracks and races, which is only sending more animals their way.

“At the track they've been shut down for a little while. Unfortunately, the way it goes is if the horse isn't racing, that's a big cost to the owner. So, they make the decision it's better to re-home the horse,” she said.

Unwilling to turn a horse in need away, the rescue said there's just a lot of uncertainty about the road ahead.

“Where are we going to be 30 or 60 days from now,” Gilbert asked.

As that uncertainty continues, if you'd like to learn how you can help the rescue and its horses survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can learn how here.