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12/26/2012 10:01:00 AM
Chino Valley animal sanctuary to see changes
Hacienda de los Milagros director steps down, board seeks more sustainable operation
Right, Maggie Kimmel visits with a couple of the resident burros at Hacienda de los Milagros. Kimmel is one of the volunteers who comes every day to provide fresh, clean water for the animals. The sanctuary has several new board members and will soon have a new 
Review/Heidi Dahms Foster
Right, Maggie Kimmel visits with a couple of the resident burros at Hacienda de los Milagros. Kimmel is one of the volunteers who comes every day to provide fresh, clean water for the animals. The sanctuary has several new board members and will soon have a new director.
Review/Heidi Dahms Foster
Heidi Dahms-Foster
Former Editorial Manager

A longtime Chino Valley animal sanctuary is looking at some changes that will enable it to better sustain its mission of caring for the burros and horses it has rescued for the past 23 years.

Hacienda de los Milagros Founding Executive Director Wayne Zaugg has stepped down, and the sanctuary's board is now seeking his replacement, said interim Board President Noel Breen. The sanctuary also has added some new faces to its executive board.

Breen cited Zaugg for the years of labor he gave to the burros and horses in the sanctuary's care.

"Wayne helped make HDLM a pioneer in equine rescue," Breen said. "He literally saved hundreds of animals that would otherwise have been killed, leaving a legacy of concern that won't soon be forgotten."

Hacienda de los Milagros, started in Glendale and re-located in 1993 to Chino Valley, currently is home to 105 burros and 40 horses. Breen and his wife became familiar with the rescue about three years ago when Breen worked as general manager of the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott. The couple fell in love with the gentle animals and later adopted an elderly mule. Generally, however, the rescue did not adopt out animals, and that is one of the changes the board now wants to make.

Through the years, Hacienda de los Milagros has made numerous urgent requests for the community's help to feed and care for the animals, and animal lovers always have stepped up. But a few changes, Breen said, will make the task a little easier in tough financial times, Breen said.

Currently, it costs the rescue more than $600 per day to feed the animals in its care, and that doesn't include routine hoof and teeth care.

"The sanctuary currently has more animals than we can comfortably provide for," Breen said. "We're struggling to provide veterinary care for them. We're hopeful that the public can step forward to help us care for them."

Part of that care is to offer select animals for adoption by families who will give them a good, lifetime home.

Deniece Thifault, who with her husband Dennis volunteers at the rescue, said some of the burros and horses at Hacienda de los Milagros should stay there because of physical limitations and needed extra care - like the blind, 40-year-old Welsh pony that happily wanders the barn with his burro buddy, cleaning up wisps of hay the others leave behind. But many, she said, are healthy animals that will make great pets, including some rideable younger horses.

The long-lived little burros, most very friendly and inquisitive, not only make wonderful pets, but they earn their keep in many ranch environments because they ward off coyotes. Thifault said the burros get along with other animals and each other very well.

Most of the sanctuary's burros came through BLM adoption programs before they ended up in Chino Valley. The first group came from Death Valley, and since then, many have come because people could no longer afford to care for them.

Breen said affording the animals still is a daily concern with the still dismal economy and the amount of money needed, more than $300,000 annually, to care for them.

The sanctuary is particularly dependent on critter-loving volunteers like two Chino Valley teenaged sisters - Molly and Jackie Wingfield. The two come every weekend to clean stalls. Maggie Kimmel, Dan Mitchell and Patty Saraceno are the "water crew," coming by every day, rain or shine, to make sure the animals have fresh, clean water.

Along with caring for animals each day, Deniece Thifault serves on the Hacienda de los Milagros board, and on a recent Saturday, Dennis was working to repair an electric line to the organization's newer barn.

Also on Saturday, a group of teens from the Yavapai County Juvenile Detention Community Restitution Program did a thorough job of cleaning stalls in both barns, supervised by an extremely friendly barn cat.

Thiefault said the sanctuary would love to have more volunteers for a variety of chores. Anyone is welcome to come and do what they can, for as long as they can, even if it's just to spend some time with the friendly inhabitants. "They love to see people," she said. Interested people can call Thiefault at 928-830-9203.

Hacienda de los Milagros survives on donations and grants. Breen and Thifault said the board is committed to keeping the sanctuary open and making it better and more sustainable. Thanks to some dedicated and generous donors, Breen said, the animals are not currently in danger of going hungry, but the sanctuary is in need of either money or volunteers to provide farrier and veterinary care.

Donations can be mailed to Hacienda de los Milagros, P.O. Box 2095, Chino Valley, Ariz. 86232. People also may drop off donations at Warren's Feed Store in Chino Valley at 694 N. Highway 89.

For more information on Hacienda de los Milagros, visit

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: H Kulka

I was sad to hear that Wynne had left, and it is still a mystery to those of us that live outside Prescott (I live in NJ) why he stepped down. His writing is what drew me to the sanctuary, and anyone who meets him understands his strong connection with all animals and his belief that they can help heal people. I hope he will return to the sanctuary he championed, and that the board can find a way to feed the animals and bring Wynne back.

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Article comment by: A, Good Reporter

Dear Lisanne,
The article above, including the quotes, was not written by Noel Breen, it was written by a reporter who should have verified the spelling of Wynne's name as well as the zip code.

This is a frustrating, but interesting story and it could attract attention and funding to the program, but comments like yours only discourage people from helping because you have now painted a picture of a troubled organization rather than one worthy of assistance. I hope you feel proud. At least you got your name on the internet. Perhaps next time you could try finding more constructive ways to help the animals than complaining and blaming.

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Article comment by: Dana Hoyer

The address of Warren's Hay N More is also the wrong address so if you are going to mail in a donation for Hacienda De Los Milagros mail it to 2295 S. Highway 89 Chino Valley, AZ 86323 or call 928-636-1303 to make a donation.

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Article comment by: A Horse Lover

The Founder's name is Wynne, not Wayne. As acting Executive Director, Noel Breen should at least be able to get his name right.
Wynne is an animal angel, and has dedicated his heart to helping the animals in his care. He went all out to rescue animals in need, and provide a loving home for them.
I was sad to learn that Wynne will no longer be in charge, and sad for the animals there that adore him.
Wynne's shoes will be a tall order to fill. My wish is that he would step back into them, and at the same time certain Board members be replaced.
This Sanctuary is an amazing place, so I hope people continue donating money and food to keep it operating, and keep bellies full and happy. The animals are what matter most. Wynne always knew that, and did a great job caring for all of them. He'll be missed.

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Article comment by: Lisanne Donohue

The actual zip code for Chino Valley is: 86323, not 86232 as stated in the above.

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