Join Farm Sanctuary as we look back at the miracles you made happen this past year by putting compassion first for farm animals. As 2015 draws to a close, we are reminded that every farm animal is special and deserves a life free from cruelty and abuse.
Thank you for helping Farm Sanctuary be the rescuer, caregiver, and advocate farm animals desperately need. A compassionate world begins with you!
Your support helped make miracles happen for farm animals in 2015! These are some of the incredible individuals whose…
I was having a really sad day. I decided to walk up the hill to find my best pal, a steer named Sonny. For five minutes straight, I just hugged him, wetting his neck with possibly a gallon of tears. Knowing I had to get back to work, I finally parted with him and walked down the hill toward the shelter buildings.
After a while, I heard a noise and turned. Sonny had left the herd and followed me. He knew I needed him, so he was there.
Just like us, animals need to feel that they are not alone. During my two decades in animal sheltering, I have witnessed the power of family and friendship every single day. All creatures have a will to live, and friendship motivates them to live their best, supported by and supporting others.
Here are my favorite examples from the past year.
Louise, Tracey, Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer enjoying a beautiful day at sanctuary.
In February, three lambs were born at our New York Shelter. Far along in their pregnancies when they were rescued from neglect, mamas Tracey and Louise (Tracey’s daughter) faced high-risk deliveries, but with the help of devoted shelter staff, everyone made it through. Tracey, who delivered son Hazelton first, supported Louise during the birth of twins Reubie and Summer, calling out to the younger ewe throughout her labor. Tracey also nursed Summer when Louise couldn’t produce enough milk for both twins.
As dairy sheep, Tracey and Louise endured repeated impregnation. Though Tracey was allowed to keep Louise, all of her sons were likely taken away to be sold for slaughter. Hazelton was the first son she was allowed to keep, and she wasn’t about to let anything happen to him. When we introduced the group to our main flock, Tracey immediately began putting everyone in their place, head-butting even the largest males, so all knew that her family was not to be bothered.
Sheep express affection and devotion primarily through physical closeness, which is why you’ll find this family sticking together and sleeping side-by-side at night. For Tracey and her clan, sanctuary means being together.
Levi, right, with his best friend Romy
Levi was found loose in NYC after escaping from a storefront slaughterhouse. During his first weeks at sanctuary, he stayed indoors sitting on a hay bale. We feared this behavior arose from health issues, but it turned out that Levi, who had likely witnessed the slaughter of his herd mates, was simply too terrified to do much of anything. Though we approached him with gentleness and care, he could not trust us.
That all changed when he met Romy, a lamb who came to us from a small farm where he was found alone and dying in the cold rain. When Romy was finally well enough to go outside into his yard, Levi couldn’t help coming out into his own adjacent yard to investigate. Within hours, the little goat who had been paralyzed by fear was running, jumping, and kicking up his heels as he played with his new best friend.
Following the lead of gregarious Romy, Levi has become a whole new goat, bravely walking right up to human visitors. His friendship with Romy has transformed him, and his world, once limited to the corner of a hospital pen, has gotten a whole lot bigger.
Vince, center, with his best friends Calvin, left, and Paul Harvey.
Vince had a rough start in life. Born at a goat dairy — a male kid in an industry that has very little use for males — he was used as partial payment to a tree trimmer. But the tree trimmer didnʼt want him either, and went door-to-door in his neighborhood trying to sell him. Things started to look up for Vince when he was taken in by a kind woman who wanted to protect him, but she soon discovered that her little charge was very sick. She contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we were able to get Vince the care he needed, which included antibiotics, tube feedings, and medication for his pain. Slowly but surely, he began to feel better, and he was finally able to leave the veterinary hospital and come home to our Acton shelter. But goats are herd animals; Vince was lonely as the new and only kid at the shelter.
Fortuitously, we learned that a combination goat dairy/sanctuary is phasing out their dairy business to focus on their sheltering work. Though the sanctuary’s operators initially intended to support their sheltering work by selling dairy products from the goats in their care, they eventually realized that this model was not sustainable. Goats, like all other mammals, must be impregnated in order to lactate. That means that goat dairies produce not only milk but also baby goats. The facility had more goats than it could handle.
Enter Calvin and Paul Harvey, the best friends Vince could have hoped for! The trio has become a source of endless entertainment for sanctuary guests and staff. One of their favorite games is bouncing off caregivers who are bent over or lying on the ground with them. Buoyed by the friendship they share and the caring people all around them, the kids are keen to explore and experiment. For these best friends, the sanctuary is the best kind of playground.
Anna and Maybelle had likely fallen off a transport vehicle before they were spotted wandering on a busy roadside. Piglets are notorious for squirming their way out of trailers, and they sometimes fall out onto the road without the driver even noticing (this in addition to the countless piglets and other farm animals who end up on the road when transport vehicles crash or overturn); many of our residents came to us after these accidents. Such incidents can be fatal for the young animals, but Anna and Maybelle were lucky enough to avoid being seriously injured in the fall or getting hit by another vehicle. They also had each other, which was surely a comfort during their two frightening days by the roadside. Right now, these piglets’ lives are all about exploration and fun — and each other. They play and dig and run with utter abandon, and they are always together. When separated for even a few moments, they squeal and run to search for one another. When we watch them romping and rooting, we recognize a common joy in simply being alive.
There are so many other beautiful bonds that we’ve seen over the years. It saddens me that the majority of industry-raised animals are deprived of these experiences, but at Farm Sanctuary, we take the time to nurture these ties that mean so much to our animal residents. We recognize that our animal residents share so much in common with us: awareness, intelligence, rich emotional lives. Just like us, they crave companionship, playmates, and a support network — and making sure they have it is a vital part of the Farm Sanctuary life.
Vegan cheesemonger, chef, cookbook author, and television host Miyoko Schinner has spent the better part of the past three decades promoting delicious, decadent, and healthful plant-based foods. But did you know she’s also a chicken rescuer? The founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen recently opened her heart and home to two roosters (Satchmo and Bird) and Bessie hen, whom she adopted through Farm Sanctuary’s Farm Animal Adoption Network.
Who was the first farm animal you adopted and why?
We started adopting hens about six or seven years ago. Our first was Snookie — she’s still around, and is the smartest chicken on the planet. It was actually my husband’s idea to adopt chickens, and he took a chicken class, so we would know what to do. We had the room, and we’ve both always had this little secret desire to surround ourselves with different animals. (I’ve actually fantasized about it.) We’ve rescued chickens from hoarders, factory farms, and so-called “free-range” farms. Until now (we just moved to a farm from the ‘burbs), we were only allowed to have hens, so that determined the species we adopted. We are hoping to adopt larger animals once we get settled into our house, get the barn ready, and learn a bit more about the needs of the different species of individuals we might adopt.
What differences and similarities do you see between companion animals and farm animals?
I didn’t know before we started adopting chickens how complex their vocabulary was. Since then, I’ve learned the meaning of their different sounds and how they communicate to each other to warn about predators, to announce the laying of an egg, to tell others when they’ve found a tasty treat. We underestimate the ability of farm animals to have language just because it’s different from ours or our companion animals. While many of the chickens we’ve had don’t seem inclined to cuddle up, we have had some individuals (Gloria, Amazing Grace, and others) who follow us around, jump into our laps, want to be stroked. They are as different in personality as any humans or companion animals. We just lump them all together as chickens because most of us don’t have the opportunity to get to know them.
What do you see as the long-term implications people should consider when adopting farm animals?
I think it’s important to know what you are doing. Different species have different needs, and it’s important to know what you’re getting into! Make sure you have the time, patience, and resources to care for them. I don’t have experience with species other than chickens, so I’m not an expert. But I hope to be!
Beyond adopting farm animals in need and making delicious plant-based foods, Schinner also helps animals by giving back to animal protection charities! Miyoko’s Kitchen donates 1% of online sales to a different nonprofit each month (through November, it’s Farm Sanctuary!). In December, the company will double that donation to the nonprofit that receives the most votes in its online poll! Please vote now to help Farm Sanctuary!
Tracey Stewart with adopted piglets Anna & Maybelle
Life doesn’t get much better for a pig than it is for Anna and Maybelle. Their adoptive mom is animal activist and Do Unto Animals author Tracey Stewart. Dad is none other than Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show.” Their new parents make sure they have plenty of fresh straw to nest in, a spacious pasture to run and play, and healthy food to eat — even spoiling them with the occasional treat. Tracey, Jon, and their two children treat Anna and Maybelle like a part of the family — and they are quickly becoming just that.
How did two pigs who were just months ago destined for slaughter become part of the Stewart clan? Sit tight, because it was a long journey to this happy ending.
Rescue from the Roadside
When an animal activist named Julie Robertson gazed out of her window while driving a busy road in Georgia, she was certainly not expecting to see two rogue piglets trotting along the highway. But that is exactly what she saw in the summer of 2015, when she first spotted Anna and Maybelle. The piglets were visibly terrified, confused, and exhausted. Anna was limping along with an injured leg, and Maybelle’s infected eye didn’t make their journey any easier. It was clear that these two little pigs needed to get to safety — and fast!
Maybelle and Anna shortly after their rescue from a roadside.
Anna and Maybelle were so frightened that it took Julie two days to catch them. Eventually, the girls were so hungry that they allowed Julie to coax them into a crate with treats and whisk them to safety. When the pair arrived at her house to a nest made out of blankets. Finally safe, the little pigs were so worn out from their ordeal that they headed straight for the cozy pile and were snoring almost instantly.
Where did they come from?
We can only guess based on past rescues, but we believe Anna and Maybelle fell from a transport truck. Piglets are notorious for squirming their way out of trailers, sometimes falling onto the highway without the driver even noticing. Such a fall can be fatal for young animals, but these two tough girls avoided serious injury, and managed to stay out of oncoming traffic. Most importantly, they managed to stay together, which helped them both survive their scary ordeal.
Anna and Maybelle love exploring their world together!
If they had remained on the truck, the piglets likely would have been heading to a stockyard, where animals are bought and sold. There, piglets are sold to “finishing operations,” where they are raised until they are just six months old and then sent to slaughter.
Fortunately Anna and Maybelle narrowly escaped this sad fate, and now they will live out their lives splashing in puddles, squealing with joy, and rooting like pigs should!
Becoming the Newest Stewarts
When Farm Sanctuary first heard about Anna and Maybelle, we immediately offered them a home at our rescued animal shelter in New York. And that is where they met the Stewarts.
Anna and Maybelle’s story captured the hearts of Jon and Tracey upon first meeting while they were on a tour of the sanctuary. And soon they had a place not only in their hearts, but in their home!
Tracey with Maybelle and Anna.
“Anna and Maybelle are a parent’s dream,” says Tracey. “They are cuddly, playful and supportive of one another. They are generous — always willing to offer up their bellies for rubs when you need it.”
And now the real journey begins.
As they regain their health, Anna and Maybelle’s unique personalities are starting to emerge. The friends, possibly sisters, are closely bonded. The girls take great comfort in each other, just as they have since their frightening two days on the roadside.
Each day they are learning to live like piglets: playing, exploring, and even chasing the Stewarts’ two children around the pasture, to everyone’s delight. We can only imagine the bright future and fun that lies ahead for these two pigs lucky enough to be rescued — and by the Stewart family, no less!
Everyone who has met Anna and Maybelle is simply squealing with delight as we watch these “PFFs” (pig friends forever) grow into their personalities. Follow Anna and Maybelle’s journey at The Daily Squeal!
In early September, we welcomed three ducklings to our Northern California Shelter. These youngsters had survived two days in the mail after they were purchased from a hatchery. The buyer, a vegan, had the best intentions: He wanted to prevent the ducks from being purchased by someone who would raise them for meat. But his method was flawed.
Peril in the Post
When their purchaser was unexpectedly hospitalized and unable to pick them up at the post office, the ducklings were at risk of being shipped back to the hatchery. Hatcheries are not farms; they are designed only to hatch and immediately ship birds, and there is no place to send back chicks, ducklings, or poults.
Like millions of baby birds purchased every year for backyard egg and meat production, the newly hatched ducks endured a traumatizing trip through the mail in a simple cardboard box, with no temperature control, no food, and no water. These three were sent to fulfill an order for only two ducklings; the hatchery automatically included a replacement duckling in case one didn’t make it to the destination. This tells you both how common it is for mailed birds to die in transit and how little the hatcheries care about the safety and well-being of the individual animals they sell.
Like millions of other baby birds each year, the ducklings were shipped thousands of miles in a simple cardboard box.
Despite the grave risks of shipping animals through the mail, this practice is completely legal in the case of those classified as poultry. By contrast, transporting a cat or dog in this manner is illegal, and, as a 2011 case in Minnesota demonstrated, can result in criminal charges. Continue reading →
It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. As we honor those individuals — human and animal — who lost their lives in the storm, we also pause to remember hundreds of chickens whose lives were saved.
Katrina and Farm Animals: By the Numbers
725: Chickens saved by Farm Sanctuary in the days following Katrina. All of them were brought to our New York Shelter for care. They had a variety of health problems — some caused by the storm’s aftermath, many simply the result of standard industry practice. Their problems ranged from septic joints to severe digestive issues, from gangrene to broken toes. One had a large head wound; another was found with her eyes swollen shut. Many had gone days without food or water. The sick and injured birds received care ranging from treatment with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics to major surgery.
200+: The number of birds that were taken in by other sanctuaries or adopted by private individuals. The compassionate people who took in these chickens not only provided lifelong care for animals who had suffered so much — they also made it possible for us to say yes to many more chickens in need. (If you are interested in providing a permanent, loving home for a farm animal, please consider becoming a part of the Farm Animal Adoption Network!)
635 million: The estimated number of farm animals being raised for food in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi when Katrina made landfall. Millions of them died.
9: Years that KC, the last of our Katrina survivors, lived after her rescue.
6: Weeks a typical “broiler” chicken lives before it is killed for meat.
Miyun Park, Kate Walker and Peter Wood pull a chicken from a pit
Farm Sanctuary rescuers — working with other groups — traveled to devastated areas, searching for surviving farm animals in need of rescue and negotiating the release of animals from area farms. Rescuers reported mass graves of dead birds, demolished warehouses confining tens of thousands of birds, and fields littered with dead chickens — and live chickens running for their lives.
Sadly, the industry views these animals as commodities rather than living, feeling beings. “Clean-up” crews were sent to bulldoze damaged buildings, with live animals still trapped inside, and to discard the debris and bodies as trash.
“We saw a massive open grave containing thousands of dead chickens… Shockingly, 21 were still alive, huddled in the corner of the pit,” Farm Sanctuary rescuer Kate Walker later recalled of her experience at a Mississippi poultry farm under contract with Tyson. A tornado spawned by the hurricane had completely destroyed one of its warehouses and severely damaged two others. Working tirelessly, our crew pulled trapped and injured chickens from the wreckage, examined them, and prepared them for transport to safety. Continue reading →
The end of spring has found us all aflutter at the New York Shelter, where we’ve welcomed more than 70 new feathered friends.
Reba and Willie
These two geese came to us from a private property in the Rochester area, where they were shut inside a small pen in a barn. In January, the property owner had obtained them from the local dog warden, who had found the geese as strays. What could have been a respite turned briefly into a nightmare for the pair: the woman is a suspected hoarder who has been reported to her local SPCA in the past. A friend of hers found out about Reba and Willie and called us, anxious to remove them from their miserable living situation. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate the release of the pair. At our shelter, they will have plenty of space to wander, graze, and swim, like all geese deserve to do.
Willie on the left, and Reba on the right, swimming with new friends.
Ace and Ventura
Around the same time, we learned of another goose in need. Ace had been living on a property in western New York for 15 to 20 years. He had once been a member of a flock, but all of his friends had been killed by predators. The property owner’s daughter and her aunt feared Ace would be next, so the aunt reached out to us. We gladly offered Ace a safe home at our shelter.
Geese are sensitive animals who form deep bonds with their mates and friends. Having witnessed the deaths of his companions, this poor guy was so distressed that he became neurotic and pulled out all his chest feathers. The feathers are now starting to grow back, but Ace is still frightened and has a great deal of emotional healing ahead of him. Finding him a friend to help him feel safe again has been a priority, but all of our residents are clearly paired up and bonded with other geese. Continue reading →
“Escaped Cow Still on the Loose!”; “The World’s Fastest Cow!”; “Cow Becomes Local Hero!”; “Cow to Get Key to the City!” These are just a few of the news headlines that a snow white Charolais cow inspired in 2002 when she took a courageous leap of faith, cleared a 6-foot-high fence at a Cincinnati, Ohio slaughterhouse, and engaged citizens in a dramatic 11-day chase that gained national attention and still has people talking today.
As she resisted capture time and again, staying hidden in a park where she foraged and rested when she could, the courageous cow demonstrated an unbendable will, and her tremendous fight for survival resonated with the public. By the time of her capture, she had won the hearts of so many that calls for mercy poured into the city from all over the country. In the end, it was a plea from renowned artist Peter Max that brought the brave bovine safely to our New York Shelter, where she was named Cincinnati Freedom and given the liberty she always deserved.
Though one of our most elusive residents, choosing the company of cattle over people, Cinci nonetheless received countless visitors through the years, each one eager to catch a glimpse of the valiant cow they followed in the news. While sanctuary guests were unable to touch her, everyone who saw her was affected by Cinci all the same, as even her posture and gaze spoke of the intense life force burning within her and an acute awareness of the special place she inhabited in the world. Most were awed in Cinci’s presence, as she was a living testament to the desire for life we — human or animal — all share.
Cinci’s effect on members of the cattle herd was equally profound. Forming a natural bond with other famous slaughterhouse escapees who came to the shelter before and after her (including Queenie, Annie Dodge, and Maxine), Cinci traveled with her strong, faithful female companions as an inseparable unit — the members of which moved gracefully and intuitively together as if all were of one body and one mind. But her spirit breathed life into the entire cattle herd, as well. While Cinci preferred that we humans keep a respectful distance, she connected with every cow and steer, treating each of them with the utmost tenderness and love. Continue reading →
Most people take for granted the similarity between animal mothers and their human counterparts. Farm Sanctuary recognizes the importance of the maternal bond and has for decades afforded dozens of farm-animal mothers with the unique opportunity to care for their babies for the first time in their lives. Here are some of my favorite family-bonding tales from our shelters.
Mother pigs raised in sanctuary remain with their children for their lifetime and continue the same maternal care even when their adult offspring have grown up. These moms are known for making large nest like beds for sleeping, protecting them from danger and enduring respect and love from their babies even as they age.
Portia, Nikki, Chuck, Honey, and Ellen.
Examples from our shelters: Nikki still to this day makes straw nests for her offspring. Her babies, some the same size as her and her son about 200 pounds larger, nestle as close as they can to their mother. On occasions when Nikki has had to leave for medical treatments, she can look forward to a welcome-home celebration from her daughters, who run around her and playfully bump her while barking to express joy.
A sanctuary setting affords cows a unique opportunity to form deep bonds with their children. They are allowed to nurse their calves for as long as they wish – even when they are larger than their mother! We witness this beautiful psychological bond between mother and child daily within the herd of families who arrived together. Babies, even as adults, stay close to mom for protection, but as they grow and age, this bond deepens in the form of companionship. Mother cows groom their calves for hours and as they reach adulthood spend hours grooming each other. They too form lifelong bonds even within a larger herd structure.
Nutmeg with his mom, Betsy.
Examples from our shelters: Honey and Betsy were both very sweet and docile when they first arrived, but with the birth of Betsy’s son Nutmeg, both girls became a little sassy, running caregivers out of the pasture in the evening when they would call the cattle in for the night.
And I’ll never forget our 2004 rescue of a herd of 26 starving, pregnant cows. The friendliest mother actually turned on me shortly after her calf was born when we attempted to snap a photo. I was left with a black eye and crushed equipment!
Chickens make amazing mothers and although we do not allow breeding at our sanctuaries we have had mothers arrive with babies. Mother hens are so protective of their children that you often cannot see the chicks when you first arrive in the barn. Moms puff up and hide their babies beneath them to ensure that not one single chick is taken from their brood. Even as their children grow, mothers shield them under their wings at night safeguarding them from harm. Chicks cannot get wet and mothers cover them in the rain.
June and her peeps.
Mother chickens have such incredible maternal instincts that they will look out for or even take on the children of other mothers when duty calls. We have seen this in cases where multiple mothers come in with chicks of varying ages and sizes that are clearly not all from the same clutch. They often take them on and nurture them like they would their own children.
June and her babies.
Examples from our shelters: At a farm where I was visiting years ago to pick up birds I saw a mother hen run straight at a large cat who was stalking her babies. The cat thankfully ran off as mom made contact and lots of noise. They will sacrifice themselves to protect their offspring.
Here, we have witnessed mother hens vocalize to their babies as soon as they spot an aerial predator. They’ve even sounded the alarm on pigeons flying too low over the farm. In response, babies run directly to mother hen for cover.
And we witnessed our own example of hens hiding chicks when we took in chickens from a cockfighting ring that included breeding mothers and chicks. We had to pick up the mothers to ensure their chicks were accounted for (and get pecked at by their moms). One mother would not let us near her when the babies were under her and was so upset we used food to coax her to at least stand so we could count if there were more than two feet beneath her.
Sheep mothers have a specific language they only use with their children, a deep guttural call that tells them to come back quickly or to beware of intruders. The call they make is very distinct and their lamb in a sea of lambs can recognize the voice of his or her mother. Curious lambs cause moms to go into a panic and they are often seen running through the pastures literally screaming for their babies until they find them. The lambs too have distinct calls and whenever they talk mom quickly responds. Sheep are flock animals and are very family-oriented and stay with their families – moms, dads, and siblings for life when allowed to in a sanctuary setting.
Tracey and Louise with their lambs Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer.
Examples from our shelters: When Louise was giving birth, her mother Tracey – who gave birth to Hazelton ten days prior – was separated from her so that she could have privacy with her new lamb. Still, Louise talked to Tracey the entire time she was in labor and Tracey called back to her. We put them together within a few days since they seemed too stressed. Louise was also producing limited milk but had twins, and Tracey allowed them to nurse from her.
Goats are super moms and have amazing lifelong relationships with their kids in the sanctuary setting. We have groups of goats who still sleep side by side – even wrapping their necks around each other – with their now full-grown kids. Left to their own devices they will stay with them for life. Goats also recognize their offspring and family even after periods of separation.
Lizzie, Zuzu, Otto, Goodwin, and Marjorie.
Examples from our shelters: We have taken in rescued goats that were split up from goats who went to other sanctuaries and homes —and in a few cases they have come back to us— and immediately reconnect with their original family members even within a larger herd. We also had a goat named Juno whose baby crawled under a fence and ended up in a pig area and then panicked when he could not get back with mom. The fence was too tall for her to go over and she could not fit under so she threw herself over and over into the fence trying to get to him. We heard her panicked screams and came down to put them together, and her son Sebastian immediately started nursing. She would have done anything to get to him.
We also have a goat named Lizzie, who is elderly and has horrible arthritis. She requires regular treatments and her sons, ZuZu and Otto, go along with her. The three still sleep together. Her sons are much larger than her now, but forever loyal to mom.
6) Ducks & Geese
Ducks and geese moms are fiercely protective of their hatchlings as well and will chase away larger waterfowl and anyone who attempts to come near their children. They make elaborate feathered nests to lay their eggs. That said, our ducks are not allowed to breed.
Examples from our shelters: We count our birds each night, and so you can imagine our concern when we realized we had a female duck who disappeared. We looked everywhere and could not find her. We feared she’d gotten out or, worse, was killed by a fox or other predator. Then one day – a month after our failed search – she popped out of a muskrat hole in the pond and behind her were six tiny ducklings. It took us hours to catch her; we waited for her to exit the pond and bring the family into the barn. She hissed and ran at other ducks and geese in the flock. When we finally got her to settle down, we were able to whisk her and her ducklings off to our health-care area where they could be safe from harm. And of course, mom kept the little ones hidden beneath her wings.
At Farm Sanctuary, we strive to help people understand that every animal is a unique individual. In Gloria’s case, “unique individual” was an understatement.
Gloria was a goat who thought she was a human. She was as joyful as a kid and as cantankerous as an old fogie. She played gleefully with friends but always kept them in their place. She possessed eccentric insecurities and uncommon strength of spirit. It’s been almost a year since Gloria passed away, but we’re still celebrating her life at the shelter.
Trouble at the Racetrack
For the first eight years of her life, Gloria was kept tied up at a horseracing track outside Chicago. Such facilities sometimes keep goats in the belief that their presence calms high-strung racehorses. The goats are seen merely as tools to enhance the performance of their equine companions, and their own needs are often egregiously neglected.
Eventually, Gloria came to the attention of animal advocate Carrie Gobernatz. Carrie had been working to aid the many feral and stray cats, as well as dogs, chickens, geese, and other abandoned animals, struggling to survive on the racetrack’s backside. One day, Carrie came across Gloria in one of the barns. Gloria was tied up on a rope so short she couldn’t lie down, and she had no food or water. Her udders were huge and had sores on them. She clearly needed immediate veterinary attention.
“I was very angry,” recalls Carrie. “To think that vets walked right by her every day to care for the many horses in this barn owned by a very wealthy racehorse owner made me sick.” Carrie immediately lengthened Gloria’s tether, set down straw bedding for her, and brought her fresh food and water. The next day, she confronted Gloria’s “owner” about his neglect. He refused to relinquish Gloria, but Carrie persisted, finding a vet and getting an estimate on treatment for the udders. When the quote of $500 for veterinary care came back, the “owner” changed his tune and agreed to hand Gloria over to Carrie.
Carrie contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we immediately sent a rescue team from our New York Shelter in Watkins Glen. “I was so happy for Gloria, and right before she got on the van to leave, I took that last photo of her with me,” says Carrie, who continued to visit the racetrack daily to help the animals there. After seven years of feeding, spay/neuter work, adoption projects, media outreach, and campaigning, not to mention being kicked off the racetrack more than once, Carrie finally succeeded in getting the racetrack owner to take responsibility for the suffering animals on the backside. The racetrack recently held its first fundraiser for its resident stray and feral cats.
Photo credit: Jo-Ann McArthur
Operation Second Chance
When Farm Sanctuary’s rescue team came for Gloria, we found her in rough shape. Her face and ears had been rubbed bald, and her hooves were long and brittle. The most obvious sign of neglect was the condition of her udders, which dragged on the ground and tripped her whenever she tried to take even a single step. The world she had known for eight years had been cramped, monotonous, and unhealthy. But hope had arrived.
At Cornell University Hospital for Animals, a team of vets performed a mastectomy, removing the 19-pound udders from Gloria’s 126-pound body. She recovered well from the operation, and the next day she was able to return to the Rescue and Rehabilitation Center of our New York Shelter. Gloria must have felt like she had acquired not only a new home but also a whole new body. For the first time in years, she could walk without tripping over her own udders. And for the first time in her life, she could walk wherever she wanted.
Gloria’s friend Carrie was among those celebrating her transformation. “I loved the Youtube video you did of Gloria’s rescue and was terribly happy to see her living like a goat should,” she says.
Gloria had been confined and neglected for her whole life, but she was strong. Far from breaking her spirit, the hardship at the racetrack had made her tough and sassy. And she was ready to really live at last. She quickly went from walking to running, bucking, and playing. She loved to play and roughhouse with her human companions, standing up for a head-butting session or bumping her head into a leg only to hold it there.
One thing she definitely did not want was to be around other goats. In fact, she was scared of them. Each time we tried to leave her with other goats, she cried out as if to say, “There’s been a mistake! I’m a human, not a goat!” We nicknamed her “Humanga,” because she was part human, part goat. When she was with people, she wasn’t scared of anything.
We eventually moved Gloria into a pen in the goat barn, so she could see the other goats but didn’t have to live among them yet. We left her door open, so she could roam the shelter. The open space daunted her at first, but soon she realized that the shelter was her playground. Then there was no stopping her. She made a point to visit the farm assistants and stir up trouble while they were trying to clean the barns. We’d get calls over the radio requesting that the Humanga be escorted somewhere less disruptive. She was very special to everyone she knew — a favorite of our caregivers and farm assistants as well as our many visitors — for her unique and powerful personality.
While Gloria kept residence in her private pen in the sheep barn, two little goats named Jake and Peanut started squeezing under the gate to visit her. Perhaps because they were so young and so small, Gloria didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she grew fond of them.
She also developed a soft spot for the elderly and eventually joined a herd of geriatric goat ladies — at the age of ten, she fit right in. They became her family, and she adored them, forming especially close friendships first with Juniper and, after Juniper passed away, with Dotty.
A Very Good Run
During Gloria’s initial visits to the hospital after her rescue, vets had not only removed her udders but also diagnosed her with uterine cancer. They removed the uterus as well, but the cancer had already metastasized. Treatment would not have eliminated the cancer and would likely have decreased the length and quality of Gloria’s life. We decided instead to just let her live and have has much happiness as she could.
The cancer spread very slowly, leaving Gloria several years to do just that. And they were good years. Gloria had fun. She made friends. She made a home. The self that had endured quietly within her during the years of her confinement — the Humanga, the lovable, indomitable force — came out to play. And she played until her very last day. Gloria was indeed someone, not something.