BROOKS — Far inland, on 790 acres of rolling farmland, approximately 240 animals of every kind, from domestic companion animals, such as dogs and rabbits to draft horses and sheep, spend their days relaxing, eating, roaming, and sleeping. They are all in retirement and not one thing is expected of any of them, just to live out their lives peacefully in ample open space with supervised care.
Daniella Tessier founded Peace Ridge Sanctuary on a seven-acre farm in 2001. In 2016, she and the sanctuary acquired the Brooks property, and were able to hire two more staff and take on many more animals.
The founders of Peace Ridge Sanctuary have rescued more than 1,110 abused, exploited and severely neglected farm animals with the only purpose to give them safety and sanctuary for the rest of their lives. None of the animals are expected to “produce” anything; in fact, in accordance to the farm’s vegan values, not even the wool from sheep or the hair from the Angora rabbits is collected.
“It’s important to us that animals can live here, free to live out their lives without expectation of anything in return,” said one of the farm’s long-term volunteers, Melissa Andrews. “If we started selling their byproducts, it would go against our belief that they’re not here to produce anything. It’s not about what the animals can give us, it’s about letting them live in peace.”
The registered nonprofit 501c3 and animal shelter runs with three staff members and 15-25 volunteers doing physical labor year round to clean barns and pastures, feed and water the animals and help unload grain and other products. Andrews drives up nearly every single weekend from her home just outside of Portland. She works all weekend tending to the animals and sleeps in the spare room with a number of rescued dogs while her husband takes care of their dogs at home.
As she led a group during the farm’s last open house in October, Andrews explained what sets Peace Ridge apart from other rescue shelters.
“There are a lot of shelters in the state for dogs, cats and birds, but many of these facilities don’t have the space or the kind of veterinary care available for farmed animals,” she said. “That was why Peace Ridge was founded, to protect those animals from the most egregious abuse and neglect and give them the basics of food, water, shelter and veterinary care.”
Andrews said they get at least a call a day and sometimes 60 calls a month from people all over the state, looking to relinquish a farm animal.
“We work mostly with the state, taking the animals that are at the most risk,” she said.
They have to prioritize every day what animals they can take in. Many times the calls are a ‘convenience dumping’ of an animal the owner no longer wishes to care for. And even though Peace Ridge has 790 acres of room for more animals, there’s a finite amount of shelter, food, volunteer time and individualized vet care.
In most instances, the state seizes an animal from people who have underlying mental health issues, or who’ve found themselves in drastic economic situations where they can no longer care for the animal, or who bought the animal as a “pet” and then lost interest in caring for it.”
Many of the farm’s 50 adoptable rabbits come from parents who bought their kids bunnies, then decided they didn’t want the responsibility, along with homesteaders, who experimented with raising rabbits for their meat, and abandoned them.
‘People don’t realize they would be making a 10-15 year commitment getting a rabbit,” she said.
They also have 10 to 20 dogs up for adoption. Since 2001,they have saved more than 500 dogs up and down the east coast, rescuing them from shelters and holding centers where they were likely to be euthanized.
At their Open House, Tessier said the animal sanctuary’s greatest need at the moment is sustainable funding.
“The program we’re looking for the most help with this year is our equine program so we can sustain equine rescue,” she said.
Peace Ridge has built a “People Barn” on premises to do more educational programming this year, starting with their Gentle Thanksgiving, on November 11, where the Thanksgiving feast will be shared with both the participants and animals.
To learn more about animal sponsorships and what Peace Ridge Sanctuary does visit: Peace Ridge Sanctuary.
Look for our next story coming soon in this series: What a tiny Angora rabbit and a 700-pound pig have in common
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org