Supporting REAL Animal Sanctuaries

A bear at Summer Wind Farms (c) PETA

In 2017, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an undercover investigation into Summer Wind Farms, a so-called animal sanctuary in Brown City, Michigan. During their investigation, PETA found animals living in cramped, filthy enclosures, others who were denied veterinary care and still more who were exhibiting chronic psychological distress.

In 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a formal legal complaint against the “sanctuary” arguing that they failed to meet even minimal animal welfare standards including a failure to handle animals as carefully as possible, a failure to provide animals proper medical care and a failure to provide animals a clean or safe shelter including in inclement weather. Between 2012-2016, the USDA alleges that Summer Wind Farms violated the Animal Welfare Act over 200 times.

PETA’s investigation raises important questions about what it means to be an “animal sanctuary” and which animal organizations should be receiving your support.

There are hundreds of animal organizations and facilities across the United States that claim to be “sanctuaries” for exotic, domestic or farmed animals. Unfortunately, many of these “sanctuaries” would more aptly be called roadside zoos or even hoarding situations where animals are warehoused and put on display for overly trusting tourists. Visiting these types of places, which buy, breed or keep animals for profit, or even for seemingly well-intentioned purposes, unfortunately support the animals’ continued confinement and suffering.

Before attending, donating, sharing their social media posts or in other ways supporting a “sanctuary,” you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the organization a non-profit? If so, check that they’re a registered charity with the government (you can do that here). While this doesn’t guarantee that they’re a bona fide sanctuary, it is a good indication of their motives for keeping animals.
  • Does this organization buy, sell or breed animals? Real sanctuaries never breed animals. While sometimes sanctuaries are able to rescue animals as babies or pregnant moms who give birth to babies shortly after their arrival, baby animals at any sanctuary should generally be a red flag.
  • How are visitors allowed to interact with animals at the facility? Most legitimate sanctuaries have limits on how and when people can visit and interact with their animal residents. Sanctuaries should never encourage animals to perform “tricks” for visitors, or allow visitors to feed them junk food or interact with scared or aggressive animals. Visitors should never be allowed to hand-feed, hold, or touch dangerous animals like tigers and bears.
  • Along these lines, you should ask yourself how the animals look. Do they look healthy or ill? Do they look happy or stressed? If they look ill or stressed, be sure to ask why. Many sanctuaries take animals who have been abused or neglected and many animals come to sanctuaries with previously untreated medical issues. Sanctuaries truly concerned about animal welfare should be providing all ill animals with appropriate medical care and should be willing to discuss that care with the public.
  • Are the animals living in spacious, clean and enriching enclosures? Or are they cramped, dirty and barren? Animals living at genuine sanctuaries should live in groups with space to roam, explore, play and relax free of trash, debris and excessive muck and waste.

Visiting or donating to pseudo-sanctuaries only perpetuates the suffering of the animals kept there. And sharing their pictures or other posts on social media only serves to legitimize them and increase their reach to more unsuspecting animal lovers. If you see an animal in distress at one of these facilities, please contact your local humane society or animal control. You can find more tips on helping animals suffering from abuse or neglect here.

Please, only visit or support real sanctuaries truly committed to the care of their animal residents and to supporting the rights of animals.

Thank You for Making the Spring Social a Success!

Sunday, May 21st was our annual Spring Social Fundraiser and Open House, a time for SASHA members and supporters to visit and tour the sanctuary, meet the animal residents, and socialize with others interested in animal rights and plant-based living. This year over 500 members and supporters came out for the Social, helping to raise much-needed funds for the animals who live at SASHA.

If you missed the Spring Social, fear not, we’re having public tours at the Sanctuary on June 18th, July 16th, and September 17th. All tours are on a Sunday from 11 am until approximately 2 pm and are $10 per person. To RSVP, please email Bob at bob@sashafarm.org.

And don’t forget about our annual Humane Fair on Sunday, August 13th. The Humane Fair will include guided tours, a catered vegan lunch and informational booths staffed by area animal groups. It’s a great opportunity to learn about SASHA, meet the animal residents, and learn more about animal rights and local groups working towards humane reforms for animals in Michigan and beyond. You can find more information about the Humane Fair, as it becomes available, on our website and Facebook page.

Should people have “backyard chickens?” It’s Complicated.

Keeping chickens and other farmed animals, such as pot-bellied pigs, has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. But unfortunately, purchasing these animals on a whim has led to a homelessness crisis for them, meaning many are abandoned, neglected, abused or killed because of a lack of homes.

Oftentimes, well-intentioned people purchase chickens for their companionship, eggs, or even so-called “humane meat.”

Humane societies and sanctuaries, including SASHA, are constantly inundated with requests to take chickens formerly kept as pets. The need for safe and humane homes for one-time backyard chickens is overwhelming and this crisis begs the question, should people be buying and keeping chickens in their backyards?

Chickens are smart, curious animals who enjoy spending their time in groups perching and roosting in trees and straw, rooting in dirt and grasses and exploring their surroundings. Chickens have their own languages and unique likes, dislikes and personalities.

Dozens of chickens live at SASHA including some rescued from factory farms and others from a cock fighting operation.

Unfortunately, many of the chickens destined to be kept as pets are purchased from cruel factory farms. These mail order chickens are raised in intensive confinement and shipped far distances in boxes like things rather than thinking, feeling beings.

Additionally, many communities prohibit or regulate the keeping of chickens, limiting the size of a flock or the types of chickens someone can keep. Many cities prohibit the keeping of roosters, which means many are summarily killed at the hatcheries when they’re born or else abandoned or killed when they’re older. Many would-be chicken keepers scramble to place roosters because the animals were missexed and inadvertently purchased.

Humane societies and animal control agencies are often ill-equipped to help those mistakenly keeping chickens or roosters illegally or those who are no longer able to care for them. In order to provide the best quality of life possible for the chickens and roosters they already have, many sanctuaries, including SASHA, are unable to take in new chickens. This means that for those who rush into buying chickens, there is little help for them if they run into problems.

Animal sanctuaries, including United Poultry Concerns (UPC), encourage would-be chicken keepers to do their research and make sure they’re up to the task. Chickens require safe, clean, predator-protected coops and lots of space to roam and explore. You should also research the laws regarding keeping chickens and roosters where you live and always adopt, never buy, chickens.

You can find more information on the practical and ethical issues of keeping chickens and best practices for their care on UPC’s website.

SASHA Farm Newsletter: May, 2017

SASHA at VegFest.

Check out our latest newsletter here!

In this month’s newsletter, you can read about the newest SASHA residents, Wilma and Emily, our Volunteer Spotlight on Katie Karlson, a recap of VegMichigan’s 2017 VegFest, details on upcoming SASHA events and more!

If you’d like to receive SASHA newsletters, email us at info@sashafarm.org.

Pot-bellied pigs: wonderful animals but bad pets

Pot-bellied pigs, sometimes called mini-pigs or teacup pigs, are a popular “fad pet” often purchased by people based on misconceptions about their size and needs. Humane societies and animal sanctuaries, including SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary, are constantly contacted by people trying to re-home their pot-bellied pigs after they’ve grown too large for their caretaker’s comfort.

According to one estimate, as many as 90% of pot-bellied pigs purchased as pets are later given to sanctuaries and rescues.

Despite claims from breeders and online communities, adult pot-bellied pigs can weigh between 100-300 pounds and have a lifespan similar to that of dogs and cats, with some living as long as 20 years.

Pot-bellied pigs, including so-called therapy pigs, are illegal in many communities and require unique, and sometimes costly, veterinary care that many local veterinarians aren’t able to provide.

Additionally, pot-bellied pigs are intelligent and social animals who require companionship with other pigs and lots of outdoor space and enrichment that many people can’t provide.

Currently, SASHA is home to about 20 pot-bellied pigs who live communally, have space to roam, explore and root, huts to sleep in, straw to nest in, and toys to play with. Sadly, in many instances, pet pot-bellied pigs are not able to engage in these natural behaviors that are so meaningful and enriching to them and instead suffer from boredom and depression.

Unfortunately, there are few resources available for the pot-bellied pigs whose owners, for whatever reason, can no longer care for them. Many humane societies and animal control agencies consider pot-bellied pigs livestock and therefore will not accept relinquished pigs. This means that the sanctuaries, humane societies, and animal control agencies who respond to requests for assistance for pot-bellies are often overwhelmed by requests for help. And many sanctuaries, including SASHA, quickly reach their capacity and are no longer able to accept new pot-bellied pigs.

Because of the misconceptions about the size and needs of pot-bellied pigs, deceptive practices by breeders and lack of assistance and resources for pot-bellied pig owners, many pot-bellied pigs are neglected, abandoned and abused when they’re forced to live with owners who no longer want them.

In Macon, Georgia, a pot-bellied pig who was advertised as a pet on Craigslist was tortured by men with a pickax, polls, and rifles who were planning on killing and eating the animal. In Corpus Christi, Texas, an abandoned pot-bellied pig was set on fire and found with wounds across her body at a local convenience store.

Pot-bellied pigs are complex, intelligent animals who likely suffer in the sterile environment of people’s homes without the companionship of other pigs and the ability to engage in their natural behaviors and activities. The majority of pot-bellied pigs purchased as pets are later sent to sanctuaries or are neglected and abandoned as their size and unique care requirements become too much for their owners.

Instead of purchasing a pot-bellied pig as a pet, consider sponsoring one at SASHA. Your sponsorship helps us to feed and provide for the animals in our care for their entire lives.

SASHA Farm Newsletter: April, 2017

Check out our latest newsletter here!

In this newsletter, you’ll find our eulogy for Izzy, a recap of SASHA’s appearance on CW50’s Street Beat,  our Volunteer Spotlight on Katie Eory, a profile of one family’s love of Bhima and details about the Spring Social and other upcoming events.

Izzy, 2005-2017

To subscribe to future newsletters, please email info@sashafarm.org.

Rainbow Bridge Gate Guardian

Izzy – SASHA Farm Guardian and Protector

Most animals who come to live at SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary have not had an easy life.  Equines have come with sway backs and overgrown hooves.  Pigs have come overweight to the point they cannot walk.  We have welcomed run-away cows, and goats with sawed-off horns.  They all come with no trust of people and it can take years for these animals to trust us.

Izzy was no different.  Izzy came from a puppy mill in northern Michigan.  As a Great Pyrenees, she was constantly bred in horrific conditions for her “financially lucrative” pups.  Never given a break and kept in a small, dirty cage, she was bred, delivered puppies, had them taken from her too soon, bred again, and again, and again.

Izzy, 2013

Izzy was approximately four years of age when she was rescued and came to live at SASHA Farm.  She received immediate medical care and lots of love.  Unfortunately, one of her eyes had to be removed due to the lack of medical care she received while at the puppy mill.  Her suffering was officially gone because we were not going to let her be trapped or bred again.  Izzy’s happiness while running and playing in the large pastures at SASHA Farm made everyone smile.

In no time, Izzy became the guardian of the gate at SASHA Farm.  Her instincts blossomed and she was protector of the sheep, goats, and people – whether they wanted it or not.  She loved any toy she was given.  Sometimes she loved toys by destroying them.  Sometimes she loved toys by tossing them in the air and pouncing on them.  Her mood dictated how the toy would be loved.

After her position as “Gate Guardian” was secure, she expanded her farm role to include “Produce Taster”, “Play Police”, and “The Paw”.   Izzy made sure the produce being fed to all the residents was fresh and delicious.  When other animals played, she stood watch until she decided that they had played long enough.  “The Paw” was Izzy’s signature move.  Simply put, Izzy told everyone when they were allowed to stop petting her.  If someone stopped prematurely, that person got “The Paw”.

Time crept on and Izzy began having difficulty walking and breathing.  Last week, Izzy passed away, surrounded by those who loved her.  She is now at the Rainbow Bridge and she is joined there by some of her pups.  She gets to spend time with them and play without the confines of a dirty cage.

We love you and miss you, Izzy.  You are now the Gate Guardian at the Rainbow Bridge.  Do what you do best – protect, love, and play.

RIP Izzy 2005 – 3/23/2017

Last Day to Donate for 2016

taxdeadlineToday is the last day to donate for the 2016 tax year.  We can’t thank you enough for your support this year and in years passed.  Without the support of our donors, we would not be able to continue our mission of rescuing abused and neglected farm animals.

If you have a PayPal account, you can donate through this link.

If you don’t have a PayPal account, you can donate without opening an account and this link allows you to do that.

SASHA Farm is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible. To donate via check, please mail the check to SASHA Farm, P.O. Box 222, Manchester, MI 48158.