Karen Phillips, Veterinarian & Master Gardener Creates Sanctuary for Abandoned Farm Animals
Posted: July 6, 2012
As a veterinarian who practices solely at rescue shelters, Phillips saw an increasing
number of farm animals like Isaac being surrendered at shelters. Unfortunately the
animal shelters do not have the space or facilities to keep sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese, which puts their lives in a very precarious position.
She wanted to give these special animals a home where they could live out their lives in contentment, but the thought of taking on legions of farm animals would be daunting for almost anyone. Then Phillips asked herself a life-changing question, “What would I do with my life if I knew that I couldn’t fail?’ That question opened my eyes to my life’s purpose! I would start a farm animal sanctuary and raise public awareness to the plight of thousands of voiceless animals.”
Phillips purchased eight acres of land in Sewickley and set to work making the acreage suitable for housing farm animals. She is currently building a barn for hoofed stock and fencing is being placed. Out-buildings, sheds and birdhouses will also occupy the landscape along with a small house that has been renovated for a caretaker’s use. Eventually Phillips hopes to add a stock pond for her rescued ducks and geese.
“I hope people can see that farm animals have feelings and personalities all their own. They have friendships and relationships and they deserve to have a life,” she said.
Phillips’ childhood in Vermont may have prepared her for her future as a veterinarian and animal rescuer. “We didn’t have any neighbors close by and the animals became my friends,” said Phillips, adding that the long list of pets included dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, guinea pigs and always a lone chicken.
Unfortunately, many pet owners have not had firsthand experience with animals like Phillips. They start with the best of intentions, but when their pot-bellied pig grows to 200 or even 300 lbs., they realize that it was not the right choice for their lifestyle. “Pigs can be destructive in a home; they have a tendency to root around for food,” explained Phillips.
Many Easter chicks will grow into roosters, which are less desirable than the hens. “Hens lay eggs, but of course roosters do not and they also can be pretty noisy,” she added.
When people take on pets and then find they have gotten themselves into more than they bargained for, it can be heartbreaking for the animals who don’t understand why they are rejected. Phillips hopes to have an adoption program for carefully screened applicants who have the facilities to maintain farm animals.
Phillips said she welcomes community volunteers to work at the sanctuary, and solicits local grocery stores to donate produce that’s unsuitable for sale but still nourishing for the animals. A small vegetable garden will also help supplement feed for the animals. Hope Haven can use donations of money, volunteer time and equipment.
An important function of the sanctuary will be to educate students of all ages about farm animals. The location was carefully chosen to make it adjacent to the city, so that kids who have never been on a farm can visit with the goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and ducks and experience them up close.
Although the sanctuary will not officially open until July or August, Phillips already has four pigs in residence. Once the buildings are complete she will be able to house more animals and will have an Opening Day event that will be listed on the website at www.hopehavenfarm.com .
“The animals that are sick or injured will be able to receive the medical care that they need. The animals who are not adopted will be able to live here throughout their lives,” said Phillips. What more could any pig ask for?
Karen Phillips is a member of the 2011 Master Gardener class at Penn State Extension of Allegheny County. This article was written by Pamela Palongue and is used courtesy of Incommunity Magazines-Sewickley and North Allegheny Summer 2012 editions.