Gimme Shelter

This year, with the help of our supporters and members, we rescued hundreds of animals from abuse, neglect, and peril, giving them refuge and rehabilitation at our three shelters. As the year closes, we’d like to share with you updates on some of these amazing survivors.

Northern California Shelter
By Tara


Scribbles was rescued from rough treatment as a backyard pet, when he was a tiny kid.

When he was still too small for the goat herd, Scribbles lived in the more subdued company of our sheep flock. His spunk delighted caregivers and guests from the get-go, but the sheep were not impressed with this newcomer’s antics — running, jumping, and playing all day. To their relief, we soon decided it was time for him to join his fellow goats. Scribbles was thrilled. So many new friends to head-butt! He quickly learned, however, that these friends would butt him right back — a shock at first, but he quickly adjusted his expectations. Scribbles is still sometimes too enthusiastic for the tastes of some herd members, but when this happens, seasoned mama goats Annie and Debra put him in his place. His peers often indulge him in play, but Scribbles has no trouble amusing himself by running through the pasture at full speed and executing acrobatic jumps while caretakers and visitors watch with delight. Scribbles is still growing like a weed and on his way to becoming a tall and handsome adult.

Tilly and friends


In February our Orland shelter opened its doors to 400 hens rescued from an abandoned factory egg farm, where they had struggled to survive crammed into battery cages without food or water for two weeks. It was a long road to recovery for these girls, who arrived feeble, emaciated, and covered with parasites. To our grief, some were too far gone to save. Most, however, slowly gained strength — and they discovered joy. For the first time in their lives, these hens had space to flap their wings and felt grass beneath their feet and the sun on their feathers.

Many of the hens needed prolonged treatment for poultry mites. Even with these bloodsucking parasites, one particularly vivacious hen named Tilly, got right down to the business of enjoying herself with plenty of socializing and sunbathing. And now that she’s parasite-free, she loves life all the more, especially at meal time: When caregivers arrive with food, Tilly is right there to greet them.

Over the year, we have worked hard not only to rehabilitate these girls but also to find them permanent homes through our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN). In the immediate aftermath of the rescue, we were able to place 50 of the healthiest hens, and have since placed another 100 with wonderful families and sanctuaries in California, Oregon, and Washington. The hens who continue to need extra care will remain with us at the shelter.


New York Shelter
By Susie


Ewes and Lambs

In April, we rescued 60 desperately neglected animals from a backyard butcher in Cattaraugus County, New York. Among the survivors were several mother sheep who nearly starved to death as they struggled to keep their young lambs alive. We have been thrilled to watch these weak, sick sheep transform into the contented flock that now thrives at our New York Shelter.

The first family I saw as I entered that horrible barn in Cattaraugus was Yolanda and her twin lambs James and Anne. Yolanda was so weak that her body had stopped producing milk, and her babies were hungry and bloated. Now they’re the picture of health. Yolanda, like many of the others, was terrified of humans at first and remains a little wary, but her twins have no such reservations. Anne in particular is a free spirit, sometimes to her mother’s chagrin. As Anne scampers off in search of visitors, head-scratches, and adventure, Yolanda “baas” after her.



Flock mate Adriano, by contrast, has displayed a stronger sense of familial responsibility. From the start, Adriano was fiercely protective of his mother and his twin, Isabella. When a staff member briefly separated him from his family during a barn cleaning, the 30-pound lamb fearlessly delivered an admonitory head-butt. Although he is still a devoted protector of his mom and sister, Adriano now realizes that the humans here are his friends. He greets you every time you enter the barn, standing close by lest you forget to pet his head and chest.


Like Adriano, an old ewe named Audrey has also acted as a pillar of strength since the rescue. The thinnest and weakest sheep of the rescue, she clearly had lived on the property for a long time, enduring pregnancy after pregnancy only to lose her babies to slaughter. Nevertheless, Audrey’s spirit remained unbroken. She has always been the bravest of the Cattaraugus flock, approaching us even at the beginning when the others were too shy. She is a wonderful flock leader. Her fellow sheep stay with her all day, and her devoted son Abbi — the lamb who, at last, she will be allowed to keep with her — is never far from her side.



Belinda was among seven emaciated cattle rescued from the same backyard butcher. Far too old to be safely bred, she was pregnant when we rescued her. As she coped first with starvation on that barren Cattaraugus field and then with the resulting illness at our shelter and at Cornell University Hospital for Animals, Belinda received help not only from us but also from her fellow cows. Her herd mates took in her daughter Octavia, born before her rescue, and then her son Elijah, born at the shelter.

With her children thriving under the care of their adoptive mothers, Belinda could devote her strength to battling her ailments. She struggled with mastitis and a pathological bleeding condition that left wounds wherever her doctors drew blood or administered injections. She had anemia and renal failure. Rotten teeth made it painful for her to eat, and she required immediate dental care. She was extremely sick for months. At one point, she nearly died.


We still monitor her closely for mastitis and give her a special feed to help her gain weight, but Belinda is finally and decisively on the mend. She gets better every day — and happier too. She was once scared of humans, but now she is confident and friendly with her caregivers. And, she adores her new companions in our special-needs herd. Astoundingly, after all she has suffered, Belinda is in love with life.

Julia and Her Piglets

When we last told you about Julia, this brave sow was still recovering from a premature delivery in the wake of a brutal beating. A mere eight hours after we rescued her from a factory farm where workers kicked, shocked, and dragged her by her ears, she gave birth to sixteen piglets at our shelter. At one and half years old, she had been on her next-to-last litter, after which she would have been sent to slaughter.

Julia with Diane, Linus, Betty, and Christopher.

Julia’s babies were fragile, and many needed intensive care to survive. But survive they did – and how! All two pounds or less when they were born, these hearty youngsters are now between 50 and 75 pounds. They are happy, confident, and enthusiastic about life. No wonder — they’ve known nothing but kindness from their first moments.

We’ve placed several of these carefree pigs in wonderful adoptive homes, making sure to keep each with his or her favorite sibling. Diane and Linus, who had the hardest time at first, remain here with their mom. Now healthy and strong, Julia is the happiest pig I know, and she never misses a chance to talk to you when you walk by her yard or come into her pen. Even after all she endured at the hands of humans, she greets us with pure joy.

With the support of our members and friends, we have been able to give these, and all the animals we rescued in 2012, a chance to live, to heal, and to know happiness. We extend warm thanks to everyone who has made this year’s rescue efforts possible, and we look forward to helping even more animals together in 2013!


Remembering Teresa

By Susie

Teresa was already living at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter when I started working here more than a decade ago — but I met her even before that. Our first encounter was in the summer of 1998, during a rescue I’ll never forget.

We Met Under Terrible Circumstances
Back then, I was working at another sanctuary, and we received an emergency call to help with a large number of confiscated animals (you can read the full story here). A driver transporting 167 pigs from a North Carolina factory farm to a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse abandoned his vehicle on a street in Washington, D.C. It was a hot day, and the pigs were trapped in an intensely crowded metal trailer with no water. They could easily have died there, but, luckily, some neighbors called the police. The Washington Humane Society seized the trailer, and, shortly after midnight, it arrived at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary in Maryland.

Freedom to Live a Pig’s Life
It took us over 24 hours to get the pigs off the trailer, which was three stories high and had no ramps. A local horse rescue group built wooden ramps to help the frightened animals down. Seeing those pigs as they struggled out of that awful trailer was the hardest thing I’d ever done at the time. They were all overweight. They were so weak and suffering from joint pain that they walked on their knees. As soon as they reached the ground, they started eating dirt — something they had never seen before. These six-month-old pigs were born in a factory farm warehouse and spent their entire lives indoors. They didn’t know how to drink out of water tubs. They never had any sort of bedding, but, on the first night after their rescue, they made big, soft beds for themselves out of straw. This was the beginning of the life they were meant to live! Since birth, they were unable to do the things pigs love to do — but deep down they knew how.

Among the many natural behaviors that are thwarted in the lives of factory farm pigs is the formation of functional social structures. Pigs are crowded together so tightly that they can barely move, much less give each other space or form friendships. This is intensely frustrating for them because pigs are social, and they crave close friendships. After her rescue, Teresa took full advantage of the opportunity to do just that.

Bosom Buddies
Teresa was one of the 40 pigs from the D.C. rescue who found a home at our shelter in Watkins Glen, New York. During her long time with us, she had several “best” friends from among that group. Her first and very best friend was Howard. They always slept face-to-face, and I often found them chatting up a storm first thing in the morning and right before they went to sleep at night. Both pigs were very friendly and enjoyed company, but they loved each other most of all. When we lost Howard to liver failure, Teresa was devastated and became very depressed.

New best buddies helped her heal. She developed close friendships with Kari, Nancy, and Dale. Other than Teresa, Dale lived the longest of any of the pigs from their rescue. In their old age, they lived together in our retirement barn. Two years ago, however, Dale passed away. One by one, Teresa’s friends succumbed to the ailments that beset domestic pigs, even those who receive diligent care. Now she was the only one left. I could tell this was hard for her.

Howard and Teresa

Kari and Teresa

Teresa and Nancy

Teresa in Love
Around the time Teresa lost Dale, a pig named Harry lost his elderly mother, Hazel, to cancer. Like Teresa, he was lonely. He mourned deeply, and we worried for him. We have seen pigs shut down for weeks, not wanting food and not attempting to get up and be active. Pigs don’t always appreciate new roommates, but when we introduced Harry and Teresa, and these two hit it off at once, and they became a great comfort to each other. They enjoyed the same things: eating, sleeping, mud- and sun-bathing, and more sleeping (spooning each other of course). It was love. They reminded us of an old married couple, and they reminded each other how sweet life can be.

The Circle of Life
Life was sweet for Teresa, despite her health problems. She survived uterine cancer and lived the last five years of her life with mammary cancer, which remained in remission. Like all domestic pigs, however, her body was distorted by industrial breeding practices that cause pigs to grow to unsustainable sizes even on restricted diets, predisposing her to joint ailments. As she aged, she began to experience severe arthritis in her front legs, and, despite our care and treatment, the condition slowly worsened. Late this autumn, it became so severe that nothing we could do eased her pain. We knew it was time to help her to a peaceful end.

KJ, the dog, and Teresa

Over her many years, Teresa loved and lost and mourned dear friends, but she was always ready to open her heart to new ones. Now it is our turn to mourn Teresa and also, like her, to find comfort in being there for others. We are looking for a new partner for Harry, who misses his friend. In this way we honor an amazing pig who lived an incredible life, one I wish every pig could have.