Realistically Speaking . . . or . . . let’s talk horse sense

I’m a realist. Maybe it’s the Capricorn in me, perhaps it’s the farmer, or possibly it has to do with how much animal manure I shovel in a day, leaving me unable to deal with “bullshit” of the theoretical kind. For whatever reason, I find myself asking, “What’s the point?” way too often, then cutting directly to the chase, so to speak. Other people can debate merits, ethics, whatever they want, but in the real world of animal rescue, we generally have time to deal with one question – what’s the best thing that can be done for this animal? We take into account health (mental, emotional and physical,) happiness, and potential for their future. We also take into consideration what we need to do to be able to safely handle each animal, which for goats, sheep, and other smaller animals is not so worrisome. For larger animals, such as horses and bulls, well, it’s much more exciting.

We’ve had a lot of brouhaha about bull calves lately, for the oddest reason. A woman posted on the farm Facebook page that I am a “cruel bitch” for disbudding and banding (castrating) our bull calves. She said she had been thinking about donating to our sanctuary, but since we did this, we don’t qualify as vegan. Then she dropped a few F bombs and I wish I could say she then went on her merry way, but she clung to the thread for the rest of the day, making sure everyone knew how much she despises us . . . despite the fact (that I happen to know for a fact) that all sanctuaries debud and neuter their bull calves to increase the animals’ quality of life as well as to keep staff and visitors safe.

Which brings me to horses. Of course.

Because even if this particular variety of vegan (and I’m a vegan, I swear I am!) could wrap her arms around the fact that all sanctuaries take care of bull calves (and goats, sheep, etc.) the exact same way we do, they will never recover from how we treat horses (which is exactly how other strictly horse rescues treat them – and BTW, most farm animal sanctuaries don’t even attempt horse rescue because of the level of work, training and extreme expense that must go into them.)

But let’s back up before we cut to the chase. REALITY – there are 9.2 million horses in the USA, alone. An average of about 130,000 U.S. horses are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every single year. Many are horses that didn’t make the cut in the big breeding industries producing quarter horses and thoroughbreds. Some are from backyard breeding operations. Most make their way through the auctions and are collected in kill pens, awaiting the hauler who will drive them to their particularly gruesome deaths. However you look at it, reality is that humans breed way too many horses, and the percentage ending up in slaughterhouses is heartbreaking.

Here on Locket’s Meadow, we’ve been rescuing horses from slaughter for 17 years. Several hundred have made their way through our farm and on to adoptive homes, while many have stayed here. In the past two days I have been contacted and asked to take on two different horses as rescues. One is 15 and has leg problems so she can’t be ridden. The other is 22 and retired due to health issues, and the owners can’t afford to pay his board any more. (In many cases like the second one, they can’t afford the board because they already got a new horse that is rideable – few people can afford board for more than one horse.) If either of these horses ends up at auction (we are full and can’t take them,) they will definitely go to slaughter. People bid on sound, trained horses who are easy to handle, and that’s with good reason. An untrained horse is a deadly horse. And a horse that can’t be ridden is usually destined to be a dead horse, long before their natural time.

And so I cut to the chase. Most of the horses on our farm are trained to be ridden, even the dangerous Bad Boy Bobby. Probably half our horses are retired and hang around eating all day. Should anything happen to my husband or me, my equine vet, who also rescues horses, knows what to do. Those who are too old, special needs, or just plain too difficult (Bobby) to be adopted out will be humanely euthanized. Those who are trained to be ridden will be placed in carefully screened adoptive homes. My promise to my horses is that they will never experience the horror of filing through the slaughter pipeline.

In the real world, from which we rescue our babies, horses are sent to auction with little to no regard for the fact that most of them will become meat. The few who will survive the auctions ARE THE ONES CAPABLE OF HOLDING A JOB. If we don’t provide our horses with training, then keep them in shape in our small lesson program, their reality is that if they ever leave the fairy tale that is Locket’s Meadow, they will be shot in the head with a bolt gun (that may or may not stun them,) get hung by a hook through a hind foot, then sent down the slaughter line. After, of course, they’ve watched the same thing happen to the horses in line in front of them.

Our job is to rescue animals and keep them safe. If keeping a horse safe means we train them to be well-mannered and rideable, we will put in the very considerable time and expense to make that happen. Period. We don’t care who judges us or if they donate or not. We care about our babies and their futures, whether they are with us, or elsewhere.

This is the real world for horses, and it’s a horror show. Principles be damned, if we are going to rescue them, we commit to doing the best we can for them. Anything less is buying into a fantasy that doesn’t exist in this world, and turning a blind eye to that reality doesn’t help a save a single horse from a hellish life followed by a hellish death.

Are we ever going to be a “vegan” sanctuary? Nope. Not if we actually care about horses, we won’t. We are realists.

And for that, we make NO apologies.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by Locket’s Meadow, a farm animal sanctuary, where they literally never have time to ride because they are far too busy keeping up with the volume of manure being produced by their brood of more than 140 animals.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg . . . no wait . . . I meant compassion or principles :/ …

Living my incredibly glamorous life here on Locket’s Meadow, I seldom get out and I spend minimal time online; life is just a busy blur of shoveling manure, losing muck boots to the spring mud, and carrying bales of hay far enough out into the paddocks to get past the aforementioned mud. However, since we intensified our involvement in rescuing bull calves, these past few months have been incredibly enlightening for me. Firstly, the good news: I have met some really lovely people who truly care about the animals. Secondly, and much to my dismay, I’ve realized that rescue and veganism are two completely separate animals, so to speak. Sure, many rescue people are vegetarian and vegan, but the very definition of veganism puts a crimp in our rescuing style. I know this because after years of being forcefully told I’m not a vegan because of my rescue operation, Locket’s Meadow, I actually looked up the definition today and learned there are rules to playing this game, and, to my surprise, these rules don’t support animal rescue.

What the hell?

Check out, where I just learned I’m a crappy vegan (and damn, I really thought I had it all going on there – I mean, I make my own nut cheese!!!!) It all starts out fine: “Being vegan is about living a lifestyle that does not cause suffering, harm or death to animals.” I’m cool with this, for sure, as I’m one of those lunatics who stops to pick worms out of the street after a rain (ALL OF THEM!) but it goes on, “and allowing animals to be free to choose the way they want to live.”

What on Planet Earth does that mean? I did a little more reading and learned vegans believe that all animals deserve to live lives free of cruelty, preferably in their natural habitats. Which, in a perfect world, is a perfect philosophy. But in our current state of affairs, in which we have billions of domesticated animals who DO NOT HAVE A NATURAL HABITAT, well, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? So I read a little further into the manifesto and learned, “Vegans do not believe in the breeding of domesticated animals such as horses, dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, birds or fishes. Domestication is not in the animals’ best interests, as they are dependent on humans for everything that is important to them in their lives.” OK, I’m cool with that. That is, I am if reality is actually fantasy and we didn’t already have billions of domesticated animals in the world, most of them in jeopardy every day of their mostly miserable lives. The problem is, it’s too . . . damned . . . late. The animals are here. Even if we stopped slaughtering and eating them tomorrow, or even yesterday, THEY ARE STILL HERE! And this is where principles and compassion collide and land in a tangled heap on the floor of the vast jungle of animal welfare organizations and philosophies.

We can pretend these principles are sensible and humane, or we can deal in reality. Domesticated animals are amazing. I adore them, their diversity, their personalities, their capacity for love . . . I live surrounded by them and they make me smile all day long, even when they are making me crazy (dogs, in particular . . . ) and my job is to make them smile, as well. Would the planet be in a better place if we hadn’t messed with nature and created them? Hell yes. But here we are, so what are our options?

HaHaHaHaHa! You thought I actually had an answer, didn’t you!? Nope. I got nothin’. Well, maybe I have a few ideas . . . but we shall see . . .

According to the definition of veganism, “Vegans do rescue and adopt abandoned animals however, seeing them as refugees deserving of care while they are in this world, but they do not perpetuate the institution of ‘pet’ ownership.” That’s a little wishy-washy for me. It turns out that buying an animal is not a vegan thing to do, even if that purchase saves his or her life. For example, because we rescue farm animals from slaughter by outbidding the killer buyers, we are not a “vegan sanctuary.” Well, we recently brought home a bull calf who was purchased at auction for $15, saving him from the truly gruesome fate of being slaughtered for veal. Had we gotten him for free, because he was turned loose in the parking lot, fell off a truck or because we were able to persuade the auction owners into giving him to us, we would still be vegan. (I don’t know if stealing him would have been an option, as the rules are vague there . . . hmmm . . . more research required . . . ) But because I’d rather pay a few dollars and get the calf out of there as quickly as possible, my vegan badge gets publicly ripped off my vest and I’m court martialed from membership in the club. I make this sound like it bothers me, but I don’t care at all as labels have never been my thing. What bothers me is the fact that the principles of an organization/movement have become more important to those involved than the lives of the animals they care about. Keyboard warriors argue semantics all day long (literally) without ever considering the true welfare of their subject matter.

For example, I recently received a lamb from someone who managed to talk a farmer into giving her several who were on their way to slaughter. Kudos to her for her ability to schmooze! But people like me . . . ugh . . . I don’t ever ask for anything, never mind something for free. So, if I were to adhere to the rules, I would stand by helplessly while lambs ship to slaughter. But, my compassionate nature won’t allow that, so if someone wants money to save a lamb from death, I’ll gladly paid it, breaking the rules.

Does buying livestock, even to save their lives, perpetuate the travesty that is modern farming? Nope. Not the miniscule percentage saved by rescues, that’s for certain. So think about this . . . if that lamb is not saved, he becomes an assorted pile of meat cuts in plastic wrap, hanging around a refrigerated grocery store case. Principles didn’t bring animal suffering any closer to an end; if a vegan rescuer hadn’t been a good negotiator and gotten him for free, he’d be dead . . . on principle! Instead he’s currently asleep in my mudroom, dreaming of bananas and nose kisses.

Life is never black and white. It’s more like a haze of gray, and it’s hard to sort things out in a swirling cloud of way-more-than-50 shades. It’s easier to rely on principles, wielding them like weapons to sweep aside dissenting opinions. Principles take away all need for critical thinking and discernment, aside from deciding which principle will neatly fit into a situation.

Compassion, however, is so damned tricky. Sometimes there is more than one compassionate answer to a situation (so much gray!) and you must figure out the most compassionate response for everyone involved.

This is what separates a rescuer from a straight-up vegan; if faced with a decision as to whether or not I will save a lamb on its way to slaughter, I will look into his eyes, let him touch my heart, and say screw the rule book. I’ll pay the ransom (as I have hundreds of times before) grab the baby and get the hell out of Dodge.

I guess this then begs the question – why are vegans vegan? I’m sure there are as many different answers as there are vegans or domesticated animals. For most rescuers, we adhere to a vegan diet and lifestyle, to the best of our ability in this imperfect world, because we have looked into the eyes of compromised, endangered animals and seen their souls. We have gazed into the eyes of God, and from that moment on, rules-be-damned. We are forever changed, compassion becomes our one rule and only master, and we fall into the holy hell of the abyss that we call animal rescue.

We are no longer bound by any philosophy other than that of compassion.

We become Compassionists.

After that, everything else is inconsequential.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by Locket’s Meadow Animal Sanctuary in Bethany, CT, where they are enslaved by more than 140 rescued animals . . . but happily enslaved . . . because our resident animals think we are cute and patiently humor us all day long . . .

Let’s Try This Again . . .or . . . why can’t animal rescuers all just get along?

Sure. Why not. I will follow up yesterday’s blog with clarification for those not on my Facebook page and don’t know what inspired it. I was trying to be nice to my “attacker” because I don’t think there’s any point to starting a war when I have no spare minutes in any day . . . and I find no satisfaction in arguing with anyone but my husband . . . but . . . here goes! I will exchange this time allotment for either walking dogs or any personal hygiene . . . yesterday I gave up attempting a late lunch, which is actually fine for my waist-line, thank you hypothyroid . . .

“Why don’t you stop FUCKN dehorning these helpless animals you cruel piece of shit!!!!’” and “This place is no more than a glorified “petting zoo”.. so sad…”

And much, much more. Those are a few of the comments I was treated to, and the reason for yesterday’s blog. I didn’t get a chance to read the rest of the writer’s comments until this morning after chores, and they didn’t help change my opinion of extremist vegans or anyone else who adheres to intolerance of anyone with differing opinions.

Locket’s Meadow is a farm animal rescue and sanctuary. Like all other sanctuaries, we neuter, spay, vaccinate, and everything else our animals need. In order to treat them, we do what we must to keep everyone safe, humans and animals alike. A bull with horns can be deadly for handlers and other animals. A bull calf rescued from slaughter, if castrated and sometimes dehorned, then handled gently and often, is a pet, albeit a very large one. If our choice is to rescue bull calves, make them safe and give them a long, happy life, or do nothing and send them off to a grizzly death, we will choose castration and debudding. Then we will love them until they draw their last breath, hopefully many, many years from now.

First, I am vegan. Yes, I know, there is a group of vegans who will never acknowledge that what I do is veganism, but my entire life revolves around rescuing, caring for and loving animals. My husband and I make a lot of money, but we have no retirement, no savings, no vacations, no extras. We live in an ancient farmhouse with rotting joists and support beams, a hole in the bathroom floor, and plywood squares in place of tiles in the kitchen due to a 650-pound kitchen pig named Petunia Buttercup. We do this willingly, even gladly, for the honor of serving somewhere in the area of 140 plus animals, most of whom deserved far better than they were originally born into. I stopped eating meat nearly 37 years ago. I don’t remember when I stopped eating dairy and eggs, but it’s been a long time. I even owned a vegetarian restaurant for three years, Duck’s Soup, until it became clear I had to either give up either the restaurant or the farm animals or risk dying from exhaustion. I chose the animals.

And yet I am not a vegan, and in fact am a “cruel bitch.” I have to say, that’s not the first time I’ve been called names by those I refer to as “militant vegans” and it won’t be the last. And that’s OK. It doesn’t change my life or upset me, it changes nothing that I do in any way, and if you saw me with my “babies” you would understand; we have a connection that can’t be broken.

But here’s my point, which I tried to make in my previous blog but as always, the conversation disintegrated into arguing semantics: THOSE OF US PLAYING ON THE SAME TEAM NEED TO STOP ATTACKING EACH OTHER! Where is name-calling and judging each other doing anything to help these animals that we all love so much? It’s a terrible waste of time and energy that could be put to use actually ACCOMPLISHING something.

I have no issues with demonstrating, carrying signs, chanting, etc. I have done plenty of it for causes I believe in, specifically animal and human rights. I believe in free speech with a vengeance . . . I’m a journalist who has stirred up more than my fair share of controversy, for heaven’s sake. Picket! Demonstrate! Blog! Speak up! But . . . attacking our own soldiers working in the field? It’s not helping any animals and only adds to the suffering by dividing our ranks and wasting so . . . much . . . time . . . while everyone argues semantics online. And yes, the name calling . . . OMG. What’s the freakin’ point?

We have common ground. I know we do. For example, I believe everyone from the most extreme vegans to the small family farmers (who, while they do eat animals, give them a high quality of life and treat them respectfully while alive . . . agree with me or not, I don’t care, I won’t argue, I’m just proposing a possible HUGE coalition) know that factory farming is a true evil. It’s destroying our environment, polluting our food supply, depleting our water reserves and causes unbearable, endless suffering for billions of animals every single day. It’s responsible for the demise of countless family farms and the pollution of vast tracts of land and endless bodies of water. It’s enabled by billions of dollars spent by wealthy lobbies, with whom we can’t possibly compete . . .

Unless . . .

What if we stopped attacking each other and worked together to solve the obvious problems? Think about the disjointed mess animal rescue has devolved into over a lack of tolerance for each other’s opinions and ideas. We are worse than Congress, and seem to get even less done, despite our passion.

So many years and so much awareness later, yet there are hens still confined in battery cages. Sows spend tortured lives in gestation and farrowing crates. Horses make the rounds of the livestock auctions, lining traders’ pockets and causing endless suffering before finally being sent to slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Can’t we all just pick one issue we agree on, agree to disagree about the rest, and then work together to actually save some lives, make a difference and probably save the planet while we’re at it? Then pick the next issue we agree on, and so on. If we run out of common ground issues to attack, well, then YAY! We can argue about all the rest of it AFTER WE ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING!

I’m gonna go all John Lennon again, here . . . “You may think I’m a dreamer . . . but I’m not the only one . . .”

Heaven help me, but I love John Lennon . . .

Anyways, I am completely out of time, with pills to crush and buckets to fill, but . . . for those who only caught bits and pieces, I’m not trying to denigrate anyone, vegans or otherwise . . . I’m trying to make the point that unification is all we have to make a real difference for the suffering animals of our world. And name calling . . . wow . . . can’t we leave that to our politicians? While they’re totally distracted with treating each other like shit, think about what we can get done while they’re not paying attention . . .

And fair warning – I have chosen to disregard personal hygiene today in place of taking the time to write this blog. The animals won’t care, but the rest of you might . . .

May you all have a peaceful and love-filled day, filled with wild, amazing and progressive imaginings!

Kathleen Schurman is a journalist who is enslaved by a huge number of horses, steers, sheep, goats, dogs, cats . . . never mind, it’s too much to list . . . on Locket’s Meadow, a farm animal sanctuary that she shares with her much beleaguered husband, David. Say what you will, but she will have no more time to respond to nasty or even nice comments for the next 24 hours . . . but she look forward to catching up later!



Defending Debudding . . . or . . . How to rescue animals in an imperfect world . . .

News Flash: We don’t live in a perfect world.

Reality Check: All we can do is the best we can and hope humanity wakes up. Soon.

Yesterday was a rough day here on Locket’s Meadow. After several months of internal debate (and external debate with my veterinarian, whose patient answer was always, “I will do whatever you decide,”) we had the calves debudded and banded. Generally it’s uneventful. The boys are sedated and the vet uses a hot iron on the buds where their horns would eventually grow. Then, to castrate them, she uses a device that puts a band around their testicles and cuts off the circulation so they wither up and fall off (no jokes here, please . . .) The other option is to wait a little longer and do it surgically, which is more painful and has a longer recovery time as well as a chance of infection.

As far as castration goes, there is no option; we can’t have testosterone infested, one-ton bulls in our backyard. Period. Same goes for pigs, goats, sheep . . . all men are treated equally here on Locket’s Meadow.

We generally debud goats because they play with children and assist with yoga classes. It’s safer and we hate to deny them the interaction with humans that they enjoy so much. Our animals have never tried to gore anyone on purpose, but they can play hard and accidentally catch someone with a horn. Norman, our ancient Jersey steer, came with horns and we left them alone as he’s docile as a lamb. However, one of his horns curls back into his head and we’ve had to saw the end off several times as it continued to grow into his skull, so he may have been better off without them . . .

Benny Coconut . . . well . . . we left his horns alone because he is the sweetest, gentlest, loveliest animal in the world and wouldn’t hurt a fly (literally – he refuses to be fly sprayed in the summer.) But in retrospect, I wish we had debudded him. Now that he’s missing his right eye (removed due to cancer) he swings his head wildly to see what’s happening on his blind side and he’s dangerous, but NEVER on purpose! This means he now gets less petting and seldom is hugged. I know he misses the hands-on attention, but getting caught with one of those horns could be fatal. How could I have guessed he’d get cancer and lose an eye, making his horns an issue? Hindsight . . . dammit . . .

So, yesterday, Dr. Cait came out and did her thing. I had waited a little too long while debating, so Francis Beauregard had a little bit of horn growth that had to be trimmed before cauterizing the bud. Everything was uneventful until about an hour later when I noticed blood oozing from one side. Then, he reached up with a hind leg and gave it a good scratch. Styptic powder, flour, cobwebs . . . I don’t care what you put on this bleeder – it was a geyser of shooting blood and needed a hot iron. So, I stood with my fingers pressed into it while I waited for the vet to come back – in rush hour traffic. Because we put so much time into handling our babies, Francis was an angel, only getting upset if I tried to walk away for a minute (left in the care of our trainer, Shannon, who apparently has some sore muscles today from trying to hold him still when I was out of sight.) Dr. Cait finally returned, heated up the iron, cauterized the artery and life went on.

Our lives here are an open book. I post it all, good, bad, ugly . . . if I’m going to tell the story of animal rescue, I’m going to tell it openly and honestly. Sometimes things fall apart. Would I rather not debud? Are you kidding? OMG, I hate doing it! But if my options are to rescue a bull calf and keep him intact, isolated, unsocialized and unsafe, or do two small surgeries so he can have friends and lots of love and attention, I’m debudding and banding.

Our steers live long, happy lives. We love them and take care of their needs. Their alternative? A horrible death in a slaughter house after spending their early lives enclosed in a tiny hut, mostly immobile, crying for their mothers with whom they only were allowed a few hours before being wrenched away.

Here in the muddy trenches we do the best we can with what we have to keep our animals safe. We train our rescued horses to be ridden because as the world is RIGHT NOW, if we don’t, should this farm close down, the only ones who stand a chance of avoiding slaughter for meat are the ones who can hold a job. The rest . . . ugh . . . we would humanely euthanize our old and special needs angels before we would ever allow that to happen. Male animals are fixed/castrated/whatever to avoid them becoming aggressive. Otherwise, they can’t live here in small herds being handled by humans. (Same with dogs – training and neutering are mandatory! The worst week I ever endured was when I had two, six-month old Australian shepherds simultaneously spayed/neutered . . . “keep them quiet” the vet said . . . OMG! YOU keep them quiet! It’s not possible without DRUGS – GIVE ME DRUGS FOR THEM! AND ME!!)

Humans have created domesticated animals who depend upon us for everything. We can’t fix this – they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years and it’s too late. Say what you will about debudding, but then take a walk through your local supermarket and notice all the beef products on the shelves, in the freezers . . . everywhere. Slaughter is cruel. Feedlots are cruel. Isolating veal calves from their mamas is cruel. Factory farming is cruel and the enormous meat and dairy industries are cruel. Debudding is a headache for a few days, but it’s the best we can do to compensate for an industry that is inherently cruel. (Family farmers, please don’t get on my case – I have seen the “factories” and that is specifically what I’m talking about.) There is a fate far worse than debudding and your grocery store shelves are lined with the evidence.

The very best we can do is save a few precious lives, do what we can to make them happy and SAFE, invite people in to meet them and to learn that steers are beautiful, kind, affectionate and sentient beings and hope our babies can work their magic on their visitors. I have never once meet a carnivorous human who became vegan after being yelled at by a militant vegan. I REGULARLY hear from people who have been introduced to our pigs, goats, sheep, steers . . . you name it . . . who fall in love and stop eating meat. Without me ever saying one word (and I never have, nor ever will – the animals do a better job of educating than I ever could.)

So what is the ultimate solution? Calling me a cruel bitch does not make the world a better place for animals, so name-calling isn’t it. The only solution, practical or not, is for everyone to stop eating meat and for humans to stop constantly overbreeding domesticated animals. (Yes, I heard your guffaw, but hear me out . . .) the truth is that the business of making meat is bad for our planet, it’s bad for our health, and heaven knows it’s bad for the animals. And if you believe in karma, well, you know . . . bad, bad juju . . .

We need to double down on creating cruelty-free, lab-grown meats for those who feel they can’t live without it (carnivores live here, too, so deal with it!) we need more companies to invest the way Beyond Meat has (they can’t keep up with demand!) into making a tasty and convincing fake meat (too convincing for me, I will stay with my black beans,) and we need to stop being afraid of change. Our planet will not survive if we don’t change.

What are the chances of all this happening? I’m an optimist, but wow, this pushes my to the limits of my ability to Imagine, with sincere apologies to John Lennon. Until we reach this amazing space of kindness and caring about all living beings, what can we do?

We can do the best we can with what we have, as those of us in the trenches, up to our knees in spring mud, are doing every day.

One last thing . . . I hear so many people say they love animals more than people. Lest we forget, people are animals, too. We are always gentle with our animals because that’s how we teach them to be gentle. It should be the same for the way humans treat other humans. Beating people up for not believing exactly as you do will never change anyone’s mind. Never. It just pisses them off and makes them dig in harder. The best we can do is to do our best and set an example. Rational discussion without resorting to denigration is our greatest hope for finding common ground, and frankly, our dream world of compassion and caring will never happen if we can’t find a way to work together for the benefit of every living being on this planet.

And now, I kindly thank you for reading, but I’m out of time. Back to the muddy trenches . . .

Kathleen Schurman is caretaker to more animals than she cares to count. She and her husband founded Locket’s Meadow, an animal rescue and sanctuary in Bethany, CT, in 2000. The sanctuary is self-funded, but is a non-profit 501(c)3 and gratefully accepts donations. If you don’t agree with what we do, we don’t mind if you don’t donate. We will just keep on working to make it all work and keep our animals safe and happy while we dream of peace on Earth. Peace and blessings to all!