Posts tagged sanctuary

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Sanctuary goes hog-wild over saving pigs

Visitors to the sanctuary greet a pleasant pig

Copyright (C) Pacific Publishing Company

Originally published in City Living Seattle, Sept. 14, 2011

By Christie Lagally

“Any plans for the weekend?” my coworker asked.

“Yes, I’m visiting a pig sanctuary,” I said emphatically. My co-worker’s face displayed curiosity and confusion.

“Why do pigs need a sanctuary?” he asked. I said I’d find out.

Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, Wash., is a picturesque meadow farm providing a permanent home for all breeds of rescued pigs. For 17 years, caretaker and Sanctuary founder Judy Woods has maintained and cared for her charges. My husband and I visited Woods on a quiet Sunday afternoon in August.

The first two pigs we met were a cross-section of the Sanctuary’s population. Ziggy, a 9-month-old pink Yorkshire pig was brought to the farm sporting only three legs but a great attitude about life.

Joy, a pot-bellied pig

Ziggy was enjoying her private water pond when we arrived, and she hopped up to get her head scratched. She shares her hut with the most recent sanctuary arrival, Boris, a potbellied pig who was victim of blatant neglect in his previous home, leaving him nearly blind and unable to walk.

Woods explained his recovery would take time and extensive medical care, but she had seen this happen before. Each of the 191 sanctuary pigs has a special and often-difficult story.

Finding sanctuary

Many of the residents are former pet pigs, those sold from pet stores or breeders marketing potbellied pigs as “perfect household pets.” These animals are frequently abandoned, abused or neglected when an apparently unsuspecting individual purchases a piglet and soon discovers they live with a pig who can tear down wallpaper and requires frequent attention, care, exercise and feeding for the next 18 years.

But it’s not just pet pigs that find sanctuary here. Pigs Peace is also a permanent home to pigs used for medical research, taken from horrible conditions on factory farms or cast off from the entertainment industry.

The flip side of these sad stories is that Woods and supporters of Pigs Peace have made it possible for the animals to live their lives as happy pigs. Each of the pigs has specific piggy friends. Pigs, on a warm summer night, will forgo their cozy, hay-filled barn to camp in the meadow and actually build a small hut for the party.

“If people feel the work we do is important, we need them to support the Sanctuary,” said Woods, who works on fund-raising and updates Facebook daily to keep the public informed on the pigs.  (Pigs Peace is hosting a “Walk for the Animals” on Saturday, Sept. 17, around Seattle’s Green Lake to support the Sanctuary. More information is on-line at

Pigs getting carrots

Eating pork?

A young couple from Issaquah  was also visiting that day. Heather Faoro and her husband said they have always liked pigs, but this was their first opportunity to visit a pig sanctuary.

And while the couple doesn’t claim to be vegetarian, Faoro said that she and her husband don’t eat pigs.

“It’s hard to bond with these animals and not make that shift,” Faoro said of their decision to stop eating pork.

While a visit with the Pigs Peace residents leaves you pondering the ethics of meat consumption, the organization provides a workable solution to this quandary.

In the heart of Seattle’s University District is an upscale vegan grocery called Sidecar for Pigs Peace. Store manager Doh Driver and her team of volunteer store keepers operate the colorfully displayed grocery offering a wide variety of foodstuffs, including high-quality mock meats, vegan marshmallows and even vegan cat and dog food.

Driver says some of the most popular items include a cheese substitute out of Scotland called “Sheese,” and vegan corndogs, a customer favorite.

A happy life

As the sun was setting on our Sunday evening visit to Pigs Peace Sanctuary, Ziggy came out to say goodbye. She had been eating carrots with a fellow pig and was rooting through the grass for the pieces.

Ziggy enjoys a scratch from Eric

My husband, Eric, stooped down to scratch her stomach when I witnessed the most potent moment of the evening. While Eric scratched, Ziggy slowly closed her eyes, and the edges of her long snout-covered mouth tipped decidedly upward in an unmistakable smile of deep contentment.

While I knew almost nothing of pigs, in that moment, Ziggy told me so much about the beautiful nature of these animals, and the reason we need a sanctuary for pigs.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions at


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CBC’s Doc Zone Features Richmond’s Cat Sanctuary (Jan. 6th!)

Richmond’s own cat sanctuary founded and operated by the Richmond Animal Protection Society will be featured in CBC’s documentary Cat Crazed.

Check out Bountiful Films.

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Puppy mixes it up with reptiles

"Puppy" the African Spurred Tortoise

By Christie Lagally, Special to the Richmond News November 3, 2010.  See original Richmond News article.

Puppy is not your typical household pet.

He lives at the Reptile Rescue, Adoption and Education Society in Richmond where he frequently has the run of the place.

While Puppy saunters past ball pythons, bearded dragons, red-eared turtles and iguanas — all of which have been surrendered to the rescue society by their past owners — Puppy doesn’t appear to alarm any of them.

All the reptile residents seem to know Puppy is one of their own, because Puppy is a large African Spurred tortoise.

The Reptile Rescue, Adoption and Education Society was founded by Val Lofvendahl in 2003. She was the proud owner of an iguana many years ago, when she found that the advice from the pet store about caring for her iguana was just wrong, and the iguana suffered as a result.

She vowed then that she would work to help homeless and sick reptile pets recover from poor conditions and find them new homes.

I visited the society’s rescue facility this summer with absolutely no knowledge of reptiles, and I was shocked to see how many homeless reptiles there are in Richmond alone.

“Very few were purchased from breeders; most were impulse buys from pet stores where the customers were poorly educated,” says Lofvendahl.

In fact, the Reptile Rescue is the only such rescue in Richmond, and one of only a handful of such rescues in the Lower Mainland.

corn snake

Most abandoned or surrendered pet iguanas, geckos, corn snakes, slider turtles, pythons and lizards will typically end up at this rescue facility because most shelters don’t have the expertise to care for these unique creatures.

Since 2003, more than 400 reptiles and amphibians have been taken in by the society, and there are usually about 50 in care at all times. 2010 has been a record year of intakes.

Lofvendahl introduced me to the animals that she cares for daily.

As I walked in the door, a very friendly iguana named George greeted me with dignified attention and regard.

I felt honoured to be in his presence. As Lofvendahl showed me into George’s living area, she quickly stroked his back and he closed his eyes in what appeared to be utter contentment.

George the Iguana

I got the feeling that if George had been a cat, he would have been purring. I was also introduced to some snakes that were abandoned in a drug house after the police had raided the home.

While red-eared turtles were banned from sale in Richmond’s pet stores a few years ago, a few still show up in rescues when people tire of them.

According to Lofvendahl, ball pythons are the most common snake being given up, and iguanas and bearded dragons are the most popular lizards being neglected.

I was also stunned to learn that some of the turtles, like Puppy, live up to 100 years and are sold to people who think a tortoise will be easier to care for than a dog.

While Puppy is a spritely seven year old tortoise, I met one of Puppy’s younger counterparts, Chuckles, who was just 1-1/2 years old.

Chuckles was sold to someone who had no idea that the tortoise would outlive his caretaker and end up in a shelter eventually. While Lofvendahl works diligently to find permanent homes for all the reptiles, tortoises like Puppy and Chuckles are better suited for life in an appropriate sanctuary.

The adoptable reptiles are listed on the society’s website at Like any rescue group, you fill out an application to ensure that you can offer a safe and permanent home for these creatures.

Donations are always needed to help care for these precious reptiles, and you can save your Canadian Tire money to help the Society purchase light bulbs and supplies as well as a generator. They also welcome gift cards to Superstore to buy vegetables for the lizards — one of the largest expenses at about $70 per week.

But most of all, you can pledge to never buy an animal from a pet store. There are so many homeless reptiles right here in Richmond that it will be decades before responsible reptile-loving residents have any trouble finding just the right new family member.

Christie Lagally is a volunteer pet columnist. View her blog at
© Copyright (c) Richmond News

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“Yeah, you’re a rabbit.”

This is my favorite quote from the press coverage on the UVic Rabbits.  It’s from Laura-leah Shaw on her experience driving the UVic rabbits across the US/Canadian border.

“They go through customs, it’s really not a problem — the border’s fine,” she said. “We have a permit to take them through. The inspection is basically someone looking into the van and saying ‘Yeah, you’re a rabbit.'” Read more.
(Photo left:  Rabbit Haven in Gig Harbor, right across from the Canadian border.)

R.A.F. men with their pet rabbits at a Squadron near the lines

RAF men showing off their pet rabbits, France, during World War I. Lying underneath the fuselage of an aeroplane, these three RAF men parade their pet rabbits for the cameras inspection. Well known for their fondness of animals, British soldiers were keenly aware that keeping pets was an excellent way of maintaining a regiment’s morale – hence the large number of regimental mascots adopted by British troops.

Rabbits were not the only animals kept by soldiers during the Great War. Despite the shellfire, cats co-existed with soldiers in the trenches, where they killed rats and mice and thus helped to fight disease and protect food supplies. In addition to using pigeons to carry messages, soldiers sent canaries and mice into the mining tunnels being dug underneath enemy lines as a means of checking for poisonous gases.

[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. R.A.F. men with their pet rabbits at a Squadron near the lines.’]

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700 UVic rabbits take road trip to Texas (Richmond News)

by Christie Lagally

(Photo left: TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies)

See original article in the Richmond News

The University of Victoria bunny rescue effort is almost ubiquitous.

This issue has received a lot of press for a number of reasons: the damage caused by the rabbits, the inhumane treatment caused by trapping during breeding season, and the amount of resources spent by the university while making no progress in dealing with the animals.

However, following a court decision to allow the trapping and relocation of thousands of rabbits from the UVic campus, rescuers are scrambling to find a way to make that happen and solve UVic’s rabbit problem.

So, in the spirit of back-to-school, here is a word problem for those new freshmen at UVic; Say you have 700 bunnies living on campus that are the offspring of abandoned pets, and say they are eating all your landscaping and digging holes in the lawns.

One day, you decide they must be shipped off somewhere else, and a sanctuary in Texas offers to take some of them (others will stay on Vancouver Island.)

If you can trap approximately 30 rabbits per trip, make a stop in Richmond to have them spayed and neutered and head down south to Texas, how long will it take for all the rabbits to reach the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch and how much will it cost?”

If I were faced with this question on an exam, I would fail Rabbit Rescue 101, which is hopefully a required course at UVic by now.

As with so many real-world problems, we need a little more information.

First, it takes a few days for UVic staff to trap the rabbits and three or four days for the little guys to get fixed by the veterinary in Richmond.

The rabbits are then transported across the border to Washington so they are out of the country within the seven-day time period set by the Ministry of the Environment who apparently “digs” getting into the nitty-gritty of abandoned pet-bunny management.

The drive to Wild Rose Rescue Ranch is 3,869 km, and the truck from Washington State to Texas comes up infrequently. The answer: it will take about five to six months to move the rabbits (if all goes well), but the Ministry has given TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies until roughly the end of November to get the job done or the rabbits will be killed by the university.

TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies is an ad hoc organization which includes The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS) in Westbank, B.C.

They are one of many organizations working on the UVic rabbit rescue, but TRACS is transporting and spaying/neutering the 700 Texas-bound rabbits.

And with only three months, instead of six months to implement this bunny road trip, TRACS needs our help to speed things along.

While a generous donation from FurBearer Defenders is paying for some of the costs, volunteers are needed to help drive the bunnies across the border and assist with the post spay/neuter surgery recovery of the rabbits.

Moreover, TRACS is in need of donations of rabbit pellets, bales of hay, fresh produce, animal carriers, water bottles and gas cards to pay for the transportation costs.

TRACS has also made a special plea to residents of local farms to provide a temporary resting area where the rabbits can safely await transport to the States.

Furthermore, volunteers are needed to hold fundraisers for this three-month rescue effort, and this is a great opportunity to get involved in helping animals for a short period of time.

With your help, the UVic rabbits will be speaking with a Texas accent by Christmas time – a much better future than their impending doom at UVic.

To help the Texas-bound bunnies call TRACS (Vancouver) at (604) 551-9297 or donate online at

Christie Lagally is a pet columnist. View her blog at

© Copyright (c) Richmond News

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Check out — a wonderful resource for friends of hopping friends

The more I learn about the massive undertaking to move the UVic rabbits from the campus on Vancouver Island to sanctuaries on the Island and south to Texas, the more I am in awe of volunteers who have had to put their lives on hold to help these precious creatures.  Furthermore, I’m learning so much about rabbits along the way.  During my conversations with TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies volunteer Sorelle Saidman, I learned that she maintains a wonderful online forum on rabbits and rabbit rescue called

At this forum, you can track the ongoing progress of the UVic bunnies.  But even more fun is the rabbit and hat photo contest.  What a great idea!

(Photo left:  Barley the rabbit at the Richmond Animal Shelter)

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Greyhaven, Pepper and Jamais

Richmond News article on Aug. 11, 2010

It happens almost daily. Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary is contacted to take pet bird that someone is surrendering.   It seems that people purchase these birds without really knowing the time and dedication required for their care or the lifespan of these ‘precious souls’ — some of which can live up to 80 years and often live as long as 20 or 30 years.

Greyhaven is a non-profit society operating a bird sanctuary where they care for homeless birds until just the right adoptive home can be found.  Considering all the contact I’ve had with domestic animals and the rescue groups that take them in, I was dismayed at my lack of knowledge about the plight of homeless, domestic birds.  But last year Greyhaven admitted 214 birds into their adoption program, and as many of 96 birds this year alone.  Many more are on the waiting list for assistance from Greyhaven, but the sanctuary cannot accommodate every single one.  The sanctuary currently is housing up to 40 birds including cockatiels, budgies and love birds.  There are even more Greyhaven birds in foster homes.

I’m told that many of these surrendered birds come from either pet stores or from people who have bred their birds and don’t realize that there are already a multitude of homeless pet birds in our community. Birds are also admitted from people that are unable to care for them any longer due to life changes or allergies, and the society’s volunteers are happy when someone decides to entrust their feathered loved ones into Greyhaven’s care.  It’s clear that the Greyhaven society is also proud of their good adoption rate and the careful adopter screening process.  But as more birds are sold to consumers who don’t know the responsibilities that are required, the issue of unwanted pet birds continues to expand and more birds are left homeless and needing Greyhaven’s help.

Last week I had an opportunity of speak with Richmond resident and foster bird parent Melanie Walker.  Walker is one of the dedicated volunteers at the Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary, and she also serves at their board President.   During our meeting, she introduced me to Pepper and Jamais — two cockatiels who have become best friends since their arrival at Melanie’s home where she fosters a few of the Greyhaven flock.

Pepper and Jamais (photo left) seemed to exude intelligence.  They were in a travel cage to come meet me, and they were quite vocal about wanting to get out and play.  An ideal adoptive home for birds like these would mean having a safe flying zone where Pepper and Jamais could fly around the room and a large cage for lots of playtime and sleeping.  But most importantly these thoughtful birds need a caretaker that has the time to love and care for these fine gentlemen for many years to come.

Greyhaven is a unique organization not just because of the unusual birds they take in but also for their persistence through the constant pressure of so many homeless birds since the society’s start in 1998.  For many years, their sanctuary was located in Surrey, before new construction forced them to move out.  Currently, the sanctuary is housed at a temporary location in Tsawwassen, but the directors and volunteers are urgently seeking just the right permanent location preferably in Richmond or surrounding municipalities.  The new sanctuary would need to be about 1500 – 2000 sq ft. connected with utilities (water, sewage, etc).  Greyhaven is also in need of dedicated volunteers to help at their temporary sanctuary.

Rescue groups like Greyhaven are staffed with dedicated individuals who pick of the pieces when pets become homeless.   As a result, these volunteers also have a clear picture of the overwhelming issues of animal homelessness.  Greyhaven volunteers work hard to educate the public about the realities of bird companions, and we need to listen to them closely.  In addition, while long-lived birds are still sold in pet stores and by breeders, we need to make sure that Greyhaven has the support they need.   If you can help Greyhaven find a new sanctuary, volunteer your time, donate or adopt please contact them at 604-878-7212 or visit their website at  Greyhaven also has an important Pet Therapy and Education Outreach Program.  See their website for more information.

Christie Lagally is a volunteer pet columnist. View her blog at

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