welcomed groups of up to 100 people, and
are willing to accommodate more, with
plans for event hosting in the future.”
In terms of benefits, she said, “Many
visitors discover a profound relationship
with our horses and their stories, and with
the lifetime value of, and respect due to
horses in general, plus the lessons they
inspire around hard work, perseverance
and keeping life in perspective.”
Founded in 1986 “to combat the abuses
of factory farming and encourage a new
awareness and understanding about farm
animals,” Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s
largest farm animal rescue and protection
organization, with two facilities in Califor-
nia and one at Watkins Glen in New York’s
Finger Lakes region. Set amid the pictur-
esque Sugar Hill State Forest, this 175-acre
facility, sheltering more than 500 rescued
farm animals, offers tours and hosts May to
October wedding ceremonies and events
for 40-plus people.
With the same mission of saving farmed
animals from cruelty, neglect and aban-
donment and providing them with loving
lifetime refuge and care, while also cham-
pioning veganism, Catskill Animal Sanctu-
ary is a pioneering New York organization
that hosts groups of 10 or more for tours,
educational programs and events.
Founded in 2001 just outside of New
Paltz and in its present 110-acre location in
nearby Saugerties, since 2003 this Hudson
Valley haven has rescued more than 4,000
animals to date. Having grown up amid
farm culture in England, I thought I had a
decent idea about the ways of animals, but
my visit to The Sanctuary last month for
this story would provide a profound shift of
mind and awareness.
Based southeast of Syracuse in Shelburne,
master falconer Lorrie Schumacher has
taken her “Talons! A Bird of Prey Experience” show to private events, schools,
conservation centers and other venues in
11 states, from Kentucky to Maine.
“My birds have swooped in to deliver
rings at weddings and engagements, al-
ways to the bride or groom’s total surprise,
and we also host private groups at our
place in Sherburne,” said Schumacher, who
designed private homes and ran restau-
rants before getting her falconer’s license.
“Sharing my love of raptors and nature
with people became my calling,” she continued. “It’s about turning off the technology, taking a deep breath, and feeling like
a kid again. Attendees love the up-close
encounters with my raptors, learning about
how they fly, hunt and survive in the wild.
Each raptor is a unique being, and so for
corporate teambuilding especially, there
is much to learn from how they use ‘what
they got’ and how they are made to the best
of their ability every second of every day.”
Not far from downtown Buffalo in
East Aurora, Hawk Creek Wildlife Center
has gained national TV coverage for its
acclaimed environmental conservation ini-
tiatives, including its raptor rehabilitation
and propagation program. Celebrating its
30th anniversary this year, the Center has
also garnered honors that include National
Geographic’s Blue Planet Hero award for its
Barn Owl Reintroduction Project.
Providing a permanent natural home
for 80-plus raptors, wild cats and other
animals that cannot return to the wild, the
Center’s habitats include Walk with the
Eagles. Created by founder and Executive Director Loretta Jones, this powerful
experience brings visitors face-to-face with
rescued bald eagles.
“Our mission is to connect with our au-
dience by sharing wildlife,” Jones said. “Up-
close encounters can have a life-changing
effect, instilling a sense of stewardship of
wildlife and the environment.”
With permits for shows in New York,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Hawk
Creek’s customizable on- and off-site pro-
grams include guided tours, presentations,
flying bird shows and ceremonies.
“Utilizing non-releasable animal ambassadors, we are uniquely poised as a
vital resource for bringing people close to
awe-inspiring wildlife,” said Tanya Lowe,
director of wildlife education. “
Experiences such as a turkey vulture flying inches
“I am here to share love and joy,” announced Catskill Animal Sanctuary (http://casa nctuary.org/tours) founder and executive director Kathy Stevens as she greeted me with a hug inside The Homestead, the refurbished 1813 home available to Sanctuary
members for overnight stays. From there, we descended into the low-lying valley where she
and her staff provide endless love for her rescued former farm, or “farmed,” animals.
Raised on a Virginia horse farm surrounded by animals, Stevens
always wanted to make a difference. First, she taught high school
English in Boston for a decade. Then, seeking a new challenge, she
focused on three insights—animals, suffering and education—which
after discovering the world of nonprofit sanctuaries (refuges for abused
and abandoned animals) became her purpose.
Strolling the property, a dilapidated former racehorse farm that she
and her supporters restored with grit and determination, Stevens joyously yelled out “I love you!” to every animal we passed. None, like aging
horses Ashley and Pliers, inseparably together for 35 years as mother
and son and rescued last December just hours before scheduled gunshots to the head, could know how close they came to death.
Or did they?
“Animals want what we want,” Stevens said as she showed me how
to calm a chicken with a neck massage, and then introduced Tucker, a
gentle growth hormone-induced giant of a cow. “They are not mindless
‘somethings,’ but thinking, feeling, intelligent beings with distinct per-
sonalities and a desire for love, safety and friendship.”
Circuiting the farm with Stevens, and then again on my own, visiting
with Amelia the Pig, Violet the Goat and the empty eye-socketed Appa-
loosa horses Buddy (inspiration for Steven’s first book, Where the Blind
Horse Sings) and Mirage, it all made sense. They knew why they were there, and they were
incredibly happy about their second leases on life.
Stevens’ mission is unambiguous: to end the suffering and exploitation of animals by humans. For the many groups that visit here, she understands that they may not leave committed to redesigning their lives to make that happen. Rather, her aim is that people leave more
open-hearted and open-minded to far more positive alternatives and solutions, which for any
organization is the first step to effective and lasting change.
OLD FRIENDS AT CABIN CREEK, SARATOGA COUNTY