Impact of COVID business closures has metro Detroit pet therapy farm trying to make ends meet

Posted at 5:40 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 09:50:03-04

ORTONVILLE (WXYZ) — Equine therapy is used to help children and adults with special needs. But with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down many different services, one local nonprofit organization needs donations now more than ever.

We’re talking about O.A.T.S. in Ortonville.

“We have no money coming in and we have over 25 animals we have to feed,” said Beth Pellerito.

Like many folks, Pellerito is reeling from the effects of the shutdown. She’s the executive director of “Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles” in Ortonville. It’s called O.A.T.S. for short.

For 23 years, Pellerito has run a farm that offers animal therapy for people with special needs. She has a variety of animals, but with 16 horses, O.A.T.S. specializes in equine therapy.

“Anxiety, post traumatic stress or children that are bullied – any type of challenges that they might be going through,” she said.

Her son Nicholas was the inspiration. He volunteers and takes lesson with the organization, as well as Chelsea.

Her father Tom Saunders says she lights up around horses.

“Oh my gosh, it’s like turning on a switch,” Saunders said.

Since the shutdown, O.A.T.S. lost $60,000 in funding. Pellerito has laid-off her staff. And if they don’t open up soon, another $70,000 is at stake. If that’s happens, O.A.T.S. might shutdown forever. That thought brings Pellerito to tears.

Without being able to offer lessons, host schools groups and hold fundraisers, O.A.T.S. can only survive with donations.

“There are a lot of lives that are jeopardized by this,” Pellerito said.

“It’s just been a real blessing,” Saunders added. “That whole place, to watch what they do, how they operate and the service they provide for people, is just amazing. It would be sad, it would be incredibly sad.”

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