Steers That Escaped Slaughterhouse Could Become Therapy Animals

When six steers realized what was going to happen to them at a St. Louis slaughterhouse late in March, they literally ran for their lives.

After bolting out of an unsecured door at the Star Packing Co. and running through three fences, the steers managed to evade the police and animal control officers trying to corral them for nearly five hours. One of the steers was penned in at a Little Sisters of the Poor residence but managed to escape yet again, breaking through a fence and running more than a mile.

A SWAT team was even called to the scene but, thank goodness, was not used.

Eventually all of the escapees, who became known as the “St. Louis Six,” were caught and taken back to the slaughterhouse, which must have been extremely traumatic for them.

The very good news is that the steers will not end up on dinner plates.

“Once they had escaped, there was a group of people in St. Louis and around St. Louis that rallied around the cows and stopped the slaughter,” Ellie Laks, co-founder of the nonprofit Gentle Barn, told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal.

Star Packing Co. gave animal rescue groups 24 hours to purchase the six steers. Several sanctuaries offered to take them in, but when no one showed up to get them, the slaughterhouse considered killing the St. Louis Six.

Gentle Barn, which has animal sanctuaries in Southern California and Tennessee, was able to step up and buy all six steers, thanks in large part to over $25,000 in donations from a crowdfunding page.

The steers were treated for two weeks in an animal hospital and then moved temporarily to a Gentle Barn foster care facility in Missouri.

“They’re scared,” Gentle Barn co-founder Jay Weiner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time. “They’ve gone through a lot. But they are destined for good things.”

Among the good things these steers are destined for is the possibility that they will become therapy animals. The Gentle Barn invites disadvantaged children to its Tennessee and Southern California sanctuaries, using animal husbandry as therapy.

People who don’t respond well to traditional therapy might respond better to animals, according to Laks. “It’s not easy to talk about issues affecting someone directly, and we’re joining in healing people who are angry and scared,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But first, considering the ordeal they’ve all been through, the steers will have to learn how to trust humans and be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, Laks said.

Sadly, one of the steers, who was given the name “Spirit,” suffered injuries during his escape and later had to be humanely euthanized. Gentle Barn just bought a property near St. Louis and has launched the fundraising campaign #StLouisSix so a new sanctuary can be created in Spirit’s memory.

“We’re still calling them the ‘St. Louis Six’ because we want him to be remembered and included moving forward,” Laks told the Signal.

To find out more and get updates on these lucky steers, visit the Gentle Barn website.

Photo credit: The Gentle Barn


Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

Great news

Jennifer H
Jennifer H1 years ago

Wonderful ending. Any species has the potential to be a therapy animal. Great news.

Margie FOURIE1 years ago

A heartwarming story.

Nicole H

A most wonderful story. And a wonderful initiative. It is great that children in general and specially children with special needs can meet farm or other animals and see how they live, how to take care of them etc. I don't know whether you have such "farms" as we have here in Belgium. It are very small farms, with all kind of farm animals, from rabbits, chickens, ducks to larger ones as goats, sheep,pigs, cows, donkeys and horses. Most of the children living in the big cities never have seen where the milk is coming from. They only know milk in bottles or brick cartons. Or how a goat is milked. The children, as from 7 / 8 years are stimulated to milk to goats under supervision of course. The smaller ones may take care of the rabbits, the chickens etc.. This includes feeding them, giving them fresh water, cleaning the pots, caressing the small animals, and ask someone to put a rabbit on their lap. Once those children went to such a farm, they keep asking to go there again. Kids LOVE animals. The children are also invited to help to cook the fresh milk and drink it, or to make pancakes with this milk. Such initiatives should exist in every country around the world, because most of them living in the cities do not know how a goat or sheep look like. But they all know how a zebra or an elephant looks like, because they visit the zoo with their parents or with their schools.

william Miller
william Miller1 years ago


Nanette a
Nanette a1 years ago

Poor it'll Angels. I am happy they are being spared and that they were able to be rescued. thank you to those that were able to save them.

Sheila S
Sheila S1 years ago

A real tear-jerker, since Spirit didn't make it. But a true testiment to "the kindess of strangers." Thank you, Gentle Barn, and all those who pulled together to make this rescue happen.

heather g
heather g1 years ago

This just proves that animals know !! Nevertheless, It's a miracle that these steers turned into 'cows' during this story - but then back to steers again...

Jess B
Jess B1 years ago

Glad they made it! They deserve a proper life.

oliver mally
oliver mally1 years ago

great safe! TNX! ps: some comments here are pretty dumb!