And like those other animal lovers, I was heartbroken at the news that he had died in the attempt, felled by a multitude of darts bearing more tranquilizers than his body was able to handle.
Police officers shot these darts, and I’ve seen a lot of people point the blame in their direction when discussing this courageous animal’s death.
Here’s why they’re wrong.
The NYPD is tasked with upholding public safety. There’s nothing in the handbook about properly corralling wayward cattle.
The police academy doesn’t cover the correct tranquilizer dosage to bring down a bovine without permanently harming him, and you can bet that there’s no farm animal behavior course.
And in a city like New York, there shouldn’t have to be because farm animals shouldn’t be there in the first place.
But they are there, a fact that may come as a surprise to many but is sadly well known to those in my chosen profession of rescuing and rehabilitating farm animals like this unfortunate bull.
I spend every day among rescued cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and other farm animals. You’d be surprised how many of them were saved from New York City streets after escaping from the area’s many slaughterhouses and live animal markets, to which thousands of animals are transported each year.
Through the efforts of compassionate passersby and the caring staff of the Animal Care Centers of NYC, these animals – slated for food production, often sick, sometimes injured, always terrified – find safe harbor at our sanctuary facility upstate in Watkins Glen.
Among them is Frank, a steer whose story is remarkably similar to that of this runaway bull except the end result. (And the fact that he was driven to safety by none other than comedian Jon Stewart.)
Frank escaped last spring while he was being unloaded at a slaughter facility in Queens, but in his case the tranquilizer darts he was shot with in an effort to protect the public did not cause him permanent harm.
Today, he lives happily in a herd of other rescued cattle. He has come to trust people, he loves to get his face scratched, and when he thinks one of his herd mates might be in trouble, he comes running.
When he came to the sanctuary, he became the third of our current resident cattle that have survived the same circumstances. They are among hundreds of farm animals we’ve rescued from the streets of New York City over the past three decades.
To say that the city is no place for a farm animal would be a gross understatement. The sights, sounds, and smells these animals are exposed to – for the first and only time in their short lives – are terrifying.
The conditions they face are inhumane and escapes, when they happen, are dangerous not just to the animals, but to the public as well.
Police officers cannot be blamed for acting, under conditions they have not been adequately trained for, in the best way they know how.
Escapee animals and the officers tasked with keeping residents safe from them are only in the positions they’re in because of the public’s appetite for meat.
They don’t have a choice, but we do. We can each do our part to prevent these situations each and every time we opt to leave animals off our plates.
Susie Coston is national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection nonprofit.