Santa Rosa’s wife provides respite for horses and other animals

Betsy Bueno’s last name pretty much says it all.

In Spanish, her last name means ‘good’ and there’s really no other way to describe what the 61-year-old Santa Rosa resident has given birth to over the past 25 years.

From his 4 acre ranch at the foot of Taylor Mountain, Bueno provides sanctuary, rehabilitation and placement for horses that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. At the time of this writing, she was looking after 16 different horses. She calls Operation Lost Hearts & Souls Horse Rescue.

Bueno doesn’t do this work because it’s lucrative or because he buys his goodwill from wealthy donors in the community – in fact, she funds almost all of the ranching herself. In her own words, she does it simply because she loves it, because she loves animals, and because she rests more easily knowing that she is doing all she can to help the beings who need it the most.

“Maybe I was a horse in another life of something; I feel like the need to do it is in my soul, ”she said. “Nothing makes me happier than making a difference in the lives of these animals. “

Rescue as a second career

Bueno did not embark on a career in horse rescue. Back in her twenties, the native of southern San Francisco spent time with the U.S. military and served in the military police. She went to work as a police officer with the South San Francisco Police Department and later transferred to the Napa Police Department, where she served in the K-9 Unit.

Eventually, around 1999, she forcibly retired, moved to Santa Rosa, and decided she would stay home to raise her children.

That same year, Bueno bought a horse for his daughter and discovered he had been horribly mistreated. She contacted North Bay Horse Rescue and Welfare about similar cases, which led to her getting involved as a foster nanny for the Humane Society of Sonoma County. From there, she volunteered for other organizations that help Sonoma County Animal Services. For Bueno, these concerts were fulfilling but they were not enough.

“I was helping and making a difference, but I felt like I could do more,” she said.

Bueno bought his current ranch in 2004 and moved his rescue efforts there. In 2011, she went all out into Lost Hearts & Souls, achieving nonprofit status and helping with animal control cases across the region.

Gather a menagerie

Today, law enforcement work is a big part of its operation. Local animal service organizations call him when they have cases where a horse has been abused; Bueno investigates, writes a report, testifies to her findings in court, then pays the vet fees and rehabilitates the horse on her ranch.

This is how Bueno amassed his current group of horses. Many animals are the subject of ongoing investigations. Others are in such poor health that they are considered “non-adoptable”.

On a recent weekday, the group included Buddy Love, an Appaloosa Leopard who lost one eye due to abuse and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Julio, who came from behind a house in drugs and won’t let anyone but Bueno touch him. Casino, who had his head smashed in a caravan accident, was there too. Then there was Momma and Fritz, a pair of Arab mother-sons from an animal control case in Contra Costa County.

“They’ve been through a lot, but horses are experts at forgiveness,” said Bueno. “People hurt them and do things to hurt them, but if you show them care and love, they recognize it and they become different horses.”

The Lost Hearts & Souls Ranch isn’t just a pasture; the property includes a circa 1947 barn which Bueno gutted, enlarged and stuffed with three legs of woodchips to create a soft, mellow floor.

In this barn, on this floor, the horses sleep with the family every evening.

“They’re like little lambs in there, side by side, cuddling,” she explained. “Surprisingly, after all of these animals have crossed over, they are still looking for that comfort and connection to each other.”

Bueno feeds all of her horses every day, and she pays the feed (and medical bills) out of her own pocket – almost $ 3,500 a month. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she held a full-time job delivering packages for FedEx as the primary means of paying those bills. She pays the rest of her living expenses with her pension from her 20-year career as a police officer.

Impact in the community

Bueno’s work has certainly turned heads in the community of Santa Rosa and beyond.

Tom Baker, a maintenance worker at Rohnert Park, offers Bueno free manual labor whenever she needs it – the best he can do to support his operation on a limited budget. This year he installed new water and electricity pipes in the barn. In previous years, he repaired fences.


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