Sisters Holly and Ivy lived twenty minutes outside of the City of Pittsburgh. When their guardian decided to move to Florida without them, they were forced to take care of each other with the little resources and food they could find.
Holly and Ivy happen to be alpine goats, and their sad story is just one of many that Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary is trying to change. Located in Sewickley, the non-profit animal sanctuary rescues mistreated farm and factory animals, allowing them to enjoy their lives in a loving and peaceful environment with lots of animal companions.
“We want to save animals’ lives,” says Dr. Karen Phillips, VDM, founder of Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary. “We want to do the best for them and really dramatically change their lives.”
In 2008, Dr. Phillips, a spay and neuter veterinary surgeon, was tackling pet overpopulation issues at an animal shelter. Saddened by the growing number of unwanted and neglected domesticated farm animals being deposited at the shelter, Dr. Phillips got the idea to open her own farm sanctuary and give the animals a much-deserved second chance.
By June of 2011, Dr. Phillips, who now resides at and runs the sanctuary, had purchased the rolling seven-acre property in Sewickley. By 2013, the farm sanctuary officially opened its gates and today remains the only farm sanctuary of its kind in the Pittsburgh area.
Hope Haven is now home to over 130 farm and factory animals, including alpacas, llamas, hogs, turkeys, roosters, fowl, pot-bellied pigs, peacocks, and barn cats and dogs—to name just a few. The animals coexist together and have free range over all seven acres, which include a poultry house, barn, and man-made pond for ducks and geese.
Like Holly and Ivy, the animals who make their home at Hope Haven have been rescued from a variety of situations of neglect and mistreatment, traveling from around the western Pennsylvania area and as far as New York and New Jersey.
Many of the animals at Hope Haven were removed from private homes by human agents. Brothers Craig and Evan, who were confiscated from a home near downtown Pittsburgh, know this all too well. The inseparable Chinese geese were being raised as pets at the city home when their owner was taken to prison. The pair was left in the backyard of the home until neighbors eventually called authorities and they found a home at Hope Haven.
Later, Craig was taken to have a tumor removed from his toe at a nearby animal hospital. Dr. Phillips recalls that in his absence, Evan was inconsolable and extremely distraught—a testament to the hard times shared by the brothers and the closeness that they share at Hope Haven.
Others come to Hope Haven after being dropped off at animal shelters locally or discarded along the way. Pickle was just a baby chicken when she and her littermate were dumped in a plastic bag in a public trashcan on Hamilton Avenue in Pittsburgh. By the time a Good Samaritan had—by chance fortune—found Pickle and took her to a local shelter, her little mate had passed away next to her.
Many more have been taken out of inadequate factory farm conditions by law enforcement officials and groups like PETA. Wally, Hope Haven’s resident farm hog, is a heritage breed pig whose parents were purchased for accuracy for a historical farm out of state. When the farm owners discovered that Wally’s mother was pregnant, they decided to get rid of her twelve piglets. Wally was rescued by an individual who drove him to Hope Haven and delivered his brothers and sisters to farm sanctuaries around the country.
Typically, the animals come to Hope Haven with severe health problems as a result of poor domesticated situations or inhumane factory conditions. Dr. Phillips notes that factory farms often own thousands of animals and care very little for their well-being. Pennsylvania alone has one of the largest chicken and turkey industries in the nation, along with the least number of laws and legislation in place to protect these birds.
“These are man-made animals, genetically engineered to get big,” says Dr. Phillips.
Among the many issues common to factory farm animals, Dr. Phillips notes that they are susceptible to heart attacks, are unable to reproduce naturally, have had parts removed from their bodies in the factories, and carry strains of factory diseases.
At the farm sanctuary, Dr. Phillips works to rehabilitate these animals and ensure that the remainder of their lives is as comfortable as possible.
In addition to rescuing and rehabilitating as many animals as possible, Hope Haven is equally committed to raising public awareness about food animals, by encouraging children and adults alike to see farm animals as individuals deserving of respect.
“When you get to know a turkey as an individual: stroke their soft feathers and look into their deep soulful eyes, it will make much more of an impression on your dietary choices than reading about them in a book or magazine,” says Dr. Phillips.
However, Dr. Phillips notes that encouraging people to be more respectful of animals isn’t about ostracizing any group or lifestyle, or about changing diets.
“There is always something that you can do to be more compassionate,” she offers.
By promoting early childhood and adult education, offering tours, and presenting school programs, Dr. Phillips aims to create an awareness of the food industry in a way that encourages the message of compassion.
“Farm animal compassion translates to compassion in other parts of life,” she adds.
Last March, Dr. Phillips brought her message to the Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh‘s Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition, which gives area nonprofits the opportunity to develop their networks and compete for resources and prize money.
In her quick three-minute pitch, Dr. Phillips made a strong case for increasing farm animal education and creating a culture of awareness about food practices and conscious eating.
For the future, Dr. Phillips notes that her top three goals for Hope Haven are to expand the animal adoption program, to solidify educational programming, and to partner with local food awareness organizations.
Additionally, Dr. Phillips hopes to rescue more farm hogs and set up a program in which visitors—especially city residents who don’t get to spend time on farms—can have one-on-one time with the animals and to become more informed about the often-unfair lives of food animals.
Obviously, running the farm sanctuary itself doesn’t come without challenges. “All of our funding comes from kind supporters…and the feed and medical bills can be daunting. These animals deserve the best after the neglect and abuse they suffered at the hand of humans. Ensuring their health and happiness is the number one priority and always challenging,” says Dr. Phillips.
You can join the rescue and education effort by volunteering at the sanctuary, sponsoring or adopting an animal, or by donating resources and material to Hope Haven.