Faces in the Crowd: Fran D’Angela

July 25, 2019

Fran D’Angela (right) with 3 donkeys, Annie, Lucy, and Missy, that were
adopted by Andrea of Hersey

by Gene Bodnar

Damon DuBois, the Executive Director of the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, informed me that Fran D’Angela of the Crossroads Donkey Rescue recently joined the chamber. If you have attended any of the entertainment events recently held in Clare, such as the Irish Festival or the Summer Music Festival at Shamrock Park, then you’ve seen one of their donkeys in a booth, along with a sign that says, “Kiss My Ass, $1.” You may have even participated in the inexpensive honor.

While I was attending the Summer Music Festival, I wandered over to the kissing booth and ask the ladies present if I could have an interview. It turns out that there are two Crossroads Donkey Rescues – one in Clare and one in Harrison. I spoke with Amy Morris, the lady who runs the Rescue in Clare, which is located on Leaton Road just east of Clare on her farm called Rambling Acres. Amy suggested that I should contact Fran D’Angela for the interview because she was the founder of the non-profit organization.

I contacted Fran on Facebook, and she agreed to an interview at her farm located at 10501 E. Clarence in Fran was born in Detroit in 1957. She attended schools in East Detroit, and Clinton Township, and she graduated from Chippewa Valley High School in 1977. After graduating, she attended Macomb County Community College for two years, then began attending Wayne State University but soon quit that program.

She lived with her sister in Iowa for a time and acquired an Associate Degree in Environmental Science. Returning home about 1982, she married. After a 10-year marriage, she sold everything and moved to Marquette, where she acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology.

Fran says that her mother was a typical Italian mother who was a great cook and took good care of the family. For the next four years, she lived with her mother in Clinton Township until she was able to care for herself.
In 1995, Fran was hired by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab (Biology Unit) in Grayling, where she was responsible for the identification of body fluids. She said it is a high-stress job that she has held for the last 24 years, driving back and forth from Harrison to Grayling every day while still keeping up with her duties at the Crossroads Donkey Rescue. On the other hand, she is looking forward to retirement from the State before the end of this month.

For a few years before establishing the Crossroads Donkey Rescue, Fran rescued dogs and cats, which was a very rewarding experience for her. In 1997, she acquired her first donkey, Brutus, and a horse. She began to realize how intelligent donkeys are. Upon investigation she learned of the mistreatment, neglect, and abuse experienced by donkeys all around the country, and also learned of how few rescue organizations existed. She had always possessed a love of animals in general, and she also realized how important donkeys were as therapy animals.

The following year, she founded Crossroads Donkey Rescue. Since 2003, it has been recognized as a 501-c-3 (non-profit). Her mission statement is: Crosswords Donkey Rescue is a Michigan non-profit organization that is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abused, neglected, or unwanted donkeys and place them in permanent loving homes. Through our organization, we can hope to promote the humane care and proper training of these long ears and to provide the public with a better understanding of their true nature. In 2006, Fran purchased her 40-acre farm in Harrison to accommodate the growing numbers of donkeys coming into the rescue.

Initially, her focus was confined to Michigan and surrounding states, but then she became aware of the plight of donkeys in southern states, such as Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. A little known fact is that southern states use donkeys instead of cattle in roping events at rodeos. Such donkeys frequently developed severe cuts and lacerations and scar tissue around their throats and legs from the ropes. Instead of caring for these animals, they are sent to auction houses, where kill buyers would win the bids, then haul them off for slaughter. “Donkeys have no value whatsoever in the southern states,” Fran explains.

Some of the donkeys acquired at the Rescue are bought at auction to save them from overseas meat buyers, where such meat is considered a delicacy.
In the Harrison Rescue, Fran currently houses 45 donkeys, 3 horses, and a steer who thinks he’s a donkey. Among the horses is a 30-year-old Percheron once owned by the Amish. The Clare Rescue houses another 30 donkeys and 30 mules. Fran’s long-range goal is to expand the rescues, bringing in many more loads from southern states.

Funds that support the rescue operations come from donations, an on-line auction, and adoption fees. Visit their Facebook page to find out more.
Fran says that many folks adopt a donkey to be a companion to one or more horses. Others adopt one just to own a great pet that deserves a good life.

Fran points out that some donkeys have been so badly mistreated that it is extremely difficult to teach them that not all humans are horrible people. For example, it took her eight years before one donkey would allow itself to be pet. Another donkey would attempt to give a double-barreled kick every time you were near him. Sooner or later, they all have to learn to trust again.

Donkeys have excellent memories, capable of remembering places they’ve been 25 years ago. They are vastly superior to horses when it comes to traveling over rough terrain. In fact, they will never travel over an area they consider unsafe; thus, they are capable of independent thinking and decision making. Probably because of their big ears, donkeys can hear other donkeys over 60 miles away. Unlike a horse, donkeys do not frighten easily, but they hate rain because their coat is not waterproof, and rain could damage their health. A donkey’s favorite pastime is rolling on the ground, much like a dog. They get depressed easily when left alone, which is the reason why they love to live in a herd. With proper care, a donkey can live for more than 40 years.

I asked Fran if she had any special talents that most people didn’t know about. She responded that she was “always in tune with donkeys.”

Knowing how to treat each individual donkey to gain its trust and to break it of unwanted habits was her specialty.

Three words that Fran uses to describe herself: Dedicated, Compassionate, and Hard-Working.

Upkeep for the donkeys and other animals includes two feedings and waterings a day, morning and evening – two chores that take about 90 minutes each. They eat about 10 square bales a day plus grain. Of course, volunteers to help clean pens or help with chores are welcome. Crossroads Rescue does get volunteer students from CMU. Donations of good quality grass hay are always welcome.

Fran says that her organization rescues about 50 animals each year, and she finds adoptive homes for about the same number. There is a $300 fee to adopt an animal. The adopting family signs a contract that if they no longer want or can care for their animal, they will bring them back to us so we can find another good home. Their ages range from foals to those over 30 years old.

Fran encourages potential adopters to come and see the animals. Some of the animals bond with the people and actually choose the person they want to go home with. Fran says, “Those are usually our most successful adoptions.”

For further information, you can contact Fran D’Angela at (989) 619-9475 or message her at Crossroads Donkey Rescue on Facebook.

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