“Sheltering Farms (Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY)”

Julie Morris, Vice President, ASPCA National Shelter Outreach

Sheltering Farms

Most animal shelters house dogs and cats, with a few miscellaneous and exotic animals thrown in for good measure. In contrast, Farm Sanctuary, with locations in Watkins Glen, NY, and Orland, CA, is a shelter specifically for farm animals. Farm Sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates, places or provides lifelong care for hundreds of farm animals every year. In addition, it routinely investigates stockyards, factory farms and slaughterhouses and helps to draft legislation related to the welfare of farm animals.

Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 by Gene and Lorri Bauston with the help of Hilda, a sheep they rescued from a pile of supposedly dead animals stacked behind a Pennsylvania stockyard. Discarded because she was too weak to walk (a “downed” animal), Hilda inspired the Baustons to set up a shelter for farm animals and to lobby tirelessly on their behalf. They helped introduce legislation that would ban the sale of downed animals, and their efforts led to the successful prosecution of the stockyard where Hilda was left for dead – the first-ever conviction for cruelty to animals in such a case.

Initially the Baustons supported their work by selling vegetarian hot dogs from the back of a beat-up van at Grateful Dead concerts. By 1989, they had become an active membership organization and raised enough funds through walk-a-thons to put a down payment on their 175-acre upstate New York property. The couple no longer sells vegetarian hot dogs at rock concerts to help farm animals; their work now is supported by more than 50,000 members and donors, and their annual budget exceeds $1 million.

Farming 101

On a broiling hot day in September I had the privilege of attending a one-day “Focus on Farm Animals” seminar at Farm Sanctuary’s Orland shelter, located about two hours north of Sacramento. Gene Bauston welcomed us, then related the history of the organization and described its ongoing legislative, educational and rescue efforts. After that, Sanctuary Coordinator Diane Miller gave us an in-depth tour of the farm along with specialized instruction in the care of poultry, pigs, cattle, goats and sheep. During our visit to “Pig Valley,” where dozens of pigs loll in a pond, Miller demonstrated how to clean a pig’s ear and trim his teeth. Assisted by staff member Leslie Moore, Miller worked on a cantankerous pig named Rusty, affectionately called “Crustola,” who screamed loudly even though he wasn’t being harmed in the least. “Pigs are the most challenging,” Miller feels, “yet the most rewarding.” Her personal favorite is Louie, who demonstrates that the feeling is mutual by singing whenever he hears her voice.

Most animals at Farm Sanctuary receive a head-to-toe physical at least once a month, although rabbits are examined weekly. This is no small feat; the Orland sanctuary houses more than 500 animals, including 200 sheep, 140 chickens, 45 turkeys, 35 cattle, 30 rabbits, 22 pigs, 17 goats, 8 donkeys and 7 barn cats.

Hot stuff

Late in the day, maybe because the temperature had risen to more than 100 degrees, I fell in love with a goat named Spike. I toyed with the idea of taking him home with me, though I doubt my landlords would allow a goat in their Brooklyn brownstone (assuming it were legal). Never fear: Farm Sanctuary has a program for city residents like myself who might like to “adopt,” or sponsor, a farm animal on an annual basis. Ranging from $6 per month for a chicken to $40 per month for a cow, sponsors receive framed color photographs of “their” animal as well as progress reports throughout the year. Sponsors are welcome to visit the sanctuary at any time. And for its rural supporters with adequate space, Farm Sanctuary has an adoption program which places resident animals into carefully screened, permanent homes.

For more information on either program, contact Farm Sanctuary at P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891 or P.O. Box 1065, Orland, CA 95963.

ASPCA Animal Watch – Winter 1998

© 1998 ASPCA


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