Animal sanctuaries are places where animals are brought to live with love and protection for the rest of their lives. Many animals at sanctuaries come from abusive situations, while others are elderly or sick and simply need a peaceful place to live out the remainder of their days.
The work that sanctuaries do can be thankless and expensive, but the rescued animals deserve safety and love. Because most animal sanctuaries are nonprofits, many of them need help and attention in order to continue their work. I’ve worked with animal sanctuaries for a long time and seen firsthand how moving and important it is to have the chance to bond with souls of all different species.
My website, Finding Sanctuary, works to connect volunteers around the country with animal sanctuaries. In order to draw attention to animal sanctuaries around the globe, I’m on a mission to collect some of their amazing rescue stories in order to highlight their incredible work – and to inspire people to get involved with their local sanctuary.
Check out some of the amazing stories below.
Johnny, the goat from Leilani Farm Sanctuary who changed the minds and hearts of ranchers on Maui
Johnny’s life began on a ranch with 65 other goats, and like his companions, Johnny’s fate was simple: eventually, he would be slaughtered and sold for meat. Sadly, his mother became ill and could no longer nurse him. This worried the rancher on the farm, because without regular feedings, Johnny would never grow big enough to sell. The rancher decided to bring Johnny into the house and bottle feed him a few times a day, but as time wore on, the rancher realized she couldn’t have a hand in killing him. Luckily, she heard someone at the local feed store talking about Leilani Farm Sanctuary on Maui and she knew that was the place for her Johnny.
He quickly found his home at Leilani Farm Sanctuary and left the other 65 goats on his first farm behind. He became fast friends with another goat kid named Ned, and together they were able to enjoy freedom and life without fear. They could play on rock piles together, explore the farm together, and even cuddle together in peace. Eventually, Leilani Farm Sanctuary invited the goat rancher to come see Johnny’s new home. The goat rancher and her husband, a pig farmer, arrived at the farm without any idea what to expect. Once they arrived, however, they found countless goats besides Johnny and Ned to meet. The rancher and farmer spent the afternoon learning the Leilani animals’ stories and came away with a new understanding: goats are complex, caring individuals with personalities. Two weeks later, the goat farmer decided to keep all of her goats instead of giving them up for slaughter, and a month after, her husband decided to leave the pig raising business for good.
Keisha, the tiger who was saved from a life of neglect by the wonderful people at Big Cat Rescue and given a second chance
In 2014, Big Cat Rescue agreed to take on four rescue tigers from a pseudo-sanctuary in New York that had been cited by animal welfare officials for years. When the team from Big Cat Rescue arrived at the pseudo-sanctuary, they took in the gruesome scene; crumbling plywood dens and rusty, makeshift wires held together dangerously inadequate cages. Road kill littered the many barren cages, apparently as a food source for the listless exotic animals housed inside. Big Cat Rescue even reports that, “…the owner [of the pseudo-sanctuary] said her cat had died, so she had thrown the cat into the cage that housed the 4 youngest tigers.”
There are more captive wild and dangerous animals in unlicensed and “backyard” facilities like the one in which Keisha was born in the United States than there are in sanctuaries. No one knows the exact details of Keisha’s early life, but it isn’t difficult to speculate: tiger cubs are often bred for exhibition purposes. The unsuspecting public is excited by the prospect of snapping a photo holding a tiger cub, unaware of the abuse that happens behind the scenes. Thankfully, Keisha was given a second chance.
Once Keisha arrived at her new home in Tampa, the mistreatment she had suffered in the pseudo-sanctuary became even clearer: she was missing part of her tail and pieces of her ears after bad encounters with some lions at the pseudo-sanctuary. Despite her condition, Keisha was unmistakably relieved to have space to move around. She explored her new home and revealed her gratitude to the Big Cat Rescue team with playful behavior. After intensive medical care, the underweight tiger finally became healthy. Now, Keisha has the ability to play and explore her run every day – and she always has enough food and compassion.
Paisley, the horse who was abandoned at a boarding facility before the folks at Duchess Sanctuary stepped in to cure her many ailments
Paisley’s life began in southern Oregon. She was gathered from the wild, adopted, and boarded as a young horse, but when her adopter stopped paying the boarding fees and abandoned her on the property, her life took a turn for the worse. The owners of the farm decided to just leave her in their pasture, where she went without healthcare for years and eventually reverted back to her wild ways. Finally, the owners of the farm decided to sell their land – and left Paisley in the field. According to Duchess Sanctuary, when the new owners moved onto their land, they “…contacted Animal Control, stating they would shoot her if no one came to get her.” Luckily, Duchess was more than prepared to come to Paisley’s rescue.
When Paisley arrived at Duchess in September of 2013, it was difficult not to notice the condition of her hooves. The neglect Paisley suffered led to a severe case of laminitis, a crippling inflammatory condition of the hooves. The incredible humans at Duchess were able to treat her condition, deworm her, and vaccinate her, ensuring her good health. Now, Paisley enjoys her life at Duchess with her herd of over 40 other horses, though the sanctuary reports that she is still “exceptionally wild.”
Riley the rescue, once so mangled in a car crash that the humans at Tabby’s Place could barely determine his gender
In April of 2016, sweet Riley was severely injured by a speeding car. According to Tabby’s Place his broken body was, “…so marred beyond recognition, it was initially impossible to determine his gender, and so it was necessary to choose a neutral name.” Once Riley was taken to Tabby’s and seen by a trusted emergency vet, his condition was summed up by one word: grave. Riley had a shattered femur, a fractured jaw, damaged lungs, and swelling in his brain. Some doubted Riley would make it through the night, and others questioned the quality of the life that might lie ahead. As Tabby’s Place says, “We suffered with Riley, wept for Riley, bombarded heaven with prayer for mercy for Riley. Compassion was our motor.” He was fed through a tube in his throat, his bones were gently healed, and slowly he began to come back to the world.
Six days and two surgeries later, Riley opened his eyes. He began to lift his head occasionally – in between snuggles in his blankets. Now, Riley has regained more than mobility – he is joyful once more. Thanks to the dedication of the folks at Tabby’s Place and Riley’s own determination, he now has a full life to live.