By Luke Kenton
This adorable calf has been given a new lease of life, after her loving rescuers developed one of the first cow wheelchairs in the world, which allowed her to run gleefully through the surrounding fields for the very first time.
Having been born with spina bifida – an incurable birth defect leading to the under-development of the spine – six-month-old calf Staci was facing an imminent demise until the Freedom Farm Sanctuary of Olesch, Israel, stepped in to save her life.
Unable to walk as a result of her paralyzed hind legs, Staci received 24-hour care from volunteers at the sanctuary, while co-founder Meital Ben Ari hatched a plan to improve her quality of life.
Taking inspiration from seeing videos of disabled dogs being assisted with custom-made wheelchairs, the team at Freedom Farm Sanctuary set about creating their own walking assistance apparatus for Staci, believing it to be the first attempt to do so for cows.
Strapping her into the second prototype of the wheelchair, Staci bounds down the road with unbridled joy, galloping gleefully for the very first time and hurtling towards one of the volunteers.
Currently developing what she hopes will be the third and final wheelchair design for Staci, Meital said: “When we first rescued Staci, we weren’t sure why she couldn’t walk.
“After daily routines of acupuncture therapy and physio, we finally learned that she had spina bifida, which, as it is to with humans, is incurable.
“For the first few months Staci was with us 24 hours a day – all she knew was love from humans and that’s why she’s such a loving calf now.
“When we first saw her running, we all had rears in our eyes – it was so emotional, we were all so happy.
“It was the first time she experienced real joy; she was so happy and we hadn’t seen her like that before.
“We now want to make sure we can improve her quality of life to the point where she’s that happy all of the time.
“To some a cow is just a product to be sold and then eaten, rather than a creature with a personality and a right to life.
“She’s adjusted to life on the sanctuary so well; she gets lots of love all day long; you can tell she feels really happy.
“The wheelchair in the video was – after excessive usage – causing Staci some discomfort, so we’re in the process of working with a designer to create a better structure for her.
“It’s definitely worth all the hard work.
“For me, it’s a dream come true to be able to saves these animals and improve their qualities of life.”