When I was in second grade my class took a trip to a natural history museum. There was a snake exhibit. The handler brought out one of the residents and asked if someone would like to hold her. No one responded, except me. As the snake coiled around my arm, I discovered that she was dry and soft and tickled my arm hairs. This experience has lived in my heart all my life.
There is a powerful connection made by meeting animals as individual beings. Animal sanctuaries are more than just places that save animals. They are places that can save us.
There are thousands of animal sanctuaries in every state. Colorado is home to sanctuaries, rehabs, and rescues that care for almost every type and species of animal. These are places of refuge where humans serve animals.
The passion of people who work at sanctuaries can be summed up in one word: advocacy. Advocacy for animals who suffer and die at the hands of humans through direct acts or habitat destruction. It is the reason these folks get up in the morning.
“I see once-rowdy little boys suddenly become still and quiet, their eyes widening, as they feel the sound of the howls of 16 wolves. People cry,” says Rebecca Burkhalter, from the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary in Divide Colorado has a strong focus on education of the general public about wolves, foxes, and coyotes in our ecosystem. They do the work through tours and their website, www.wolfeducation.org.
W.O.L.F. Sanctuary in Boulder County has 29 wolves and has relocated 399 captive born wolves. “What makes W.O.L.F. unique is their genuine and ethical stance on animal rescue. Every animal has a story, and we help provide each one within our care with a second chance to live their lives as natural as possible,” says Jessica Cole, Program Manager.
“W.O.L.F. Sanctuary believes all wolves should be wild and free. We agree that Colorado has the ideal environment for wolves to thrive and support the reintroduction to wolves to the area. We feel strongly that bringing wolves back to Colorado will create balance within our ecosystem.” This issue will be on the ballot this year as Proposition 107.
The experience of interacting with animals is one of the reasons many sanctuaries are open to the public. Tours and educational experiences bring people close to the animals they might only meet as meat in their daily lives. In Boulder County, Luvin’Arms and Good Life Sanctuaries care for animals that otherwise would end up on someone’s plate or as milk meant for their offspring.
Luvin’ Arms in Erie has an adorable bunch of residents. From Robbie the Rooster to Lovely Lily the pig, they are a delight to interact with. “Sanctuaries not only provide a place of refuge for abused and neglected animals, they serve as an example of compassion for the world. We desperately need examples of compassionate treatment of the most abused in society… Sanctuaries provide a physical space for inspiration, a place to interact with non-humans living with the Five Freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from pain, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear or distress,” Shartrina White, Executive Director of Luvin’ Arms, tells us. “Sanctuaries are a place where people can experience a connection and energetic synergy with these beautiful individual beings. The more connections people have with farmed animals, the less likely they are able to support their abuse and neglect.”
Good Life Sanctuary in Longmont conducts a robust education effort, inviting students to get out of their classrooms and meet animals up close and personal. Many animals at the refuge are “special needs” and take extra TLC. Nicole Brecht, Executive Director, emphasises that all animals – human and non-human – should be treated with compassion and respect. “We try to meet people where they are, not preach.”Educating about the facts of animal agriculture is important to the climate change effort. Three billion animals, and fish are killed worldwide each day for food. Each of them is sentient. They all feel. One in nine people in the world are undernourished. Yet, we feed more than 50% of our grain to animals used for food. 70% of the world’s freshwater consumption is used for animal agriculture. More than 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are from animal agriculture. More than 75% of earth’s agricultural land is used to raise animals. As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the oceans each year. It is estimated that we could see fishless oceans by 2048. These facts are stark, but necessary to understand. Almost all species have an organization to help them. Horses are no exception. Horses straddle the line between pets and livestock. It is a precarious position. Colorado Horse Rescue in Longmont rescues distressed horses and educates the public about issues like horses being sold to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico and abuse in rodeos and circuses. “By saving more of these horses at auction, we not only provide safety to horses at risk, we also limit the transportation of these horses which contributes significantly to the pollution problem,” says Katherine Gregory, CHR CEO.
CHR cares for and rehabilitates horses in need in order to prepare them for adoption. They also handle horses who need re-homing because their owners cannot keep them. In 2019, sixty-one horses from 19 different breeds were rehomed. CHR not only rescues, but they engage in helping owners find safe solutions for at-risk horses. 163 interventions provided a better life for horses. CHR offers tours, takes volunteers, provides training for community leaders and advocates for wild and pet horses.
Good Samaritans finding injured birds or abandoned baby squirrels or trying to save baby bunnies after their mother was killed turn to Greenwood. When a wildlife question arises, the answer is “Ask Greenwood!”
Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is not technically a sanctuary. They care for injured and sick wildlife for release in the wild.
“Wildlife rehabilitation centers provide an essential service to our communities and the wild animals that inhabit them. They are the only place for people to take orphaned and injured wild animals so that they may receive professional care. It’s important to the people in our area to know that they always have somebody they can call and a place they can go to help with their wildlife concerns,” says Chelsea Barrett, Greenwood’s Executive Director.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg offers a bird’s eye view of apex predators from walkways spanning the property. The Sanctuary is one of the oldest in Colorado. They have a robust education effort and have opened a refuge on 14 square miles in Colorado.
A visit to a sanctuary can be a fun and educational family outing. The memories last a lifetime.
*Sanctuaries are complying with Covid-19 regulations to keep everybody safe.