When we think of finding “forever homes” for animals, we generally think of shelters or rescue groups that take in animals, then adopt them out to loving families. But there is a difference between this type of organization and animal sanctuaries, which find or receive injured or ill animals – sometimes with disabilities – and keep them for the rest of their lives. Sanctuaries often focus on one type of animal, or (depending on their size and background of the people involved) can help a variety of animals co-exist during their last days and keep them safe and relatively comfortable.
Sometimes, a sanctuary is also a place to educate people about animals and how to keep them safe.
Minnesota is home to several sanctuaries, including some in southern Minnesota.
Minnesota sanctuaries include:
Farmaste Sanctuary, in Lindstrom, MN. According to its website – farmaste.org – the organization is a “Caring Farm Animal Rescue Organization… that believes all animals have inherent worth, and that farm animals are not an exception to that rule.” The organization rescues farm animals from cruelty situations and brings them to its 79-acre farm, where the animals are allowed to roam in the pastures, and safely live out their lives. Farmaste also allows people to meet and learn about the animals through tours and volunteer opportunities.
Spring Farm Sanctuary, in Long Lake, MN. Its website (springfarmsanctuary.org) says it’s “one of the first farm animal sanctuaries in Minnesota….committed to ending farm animal cruelty and promoting vegan living through (its) rescue, rehabilitation and education efforts.” The organization “encourages the community to connect with animal and realize how sensitive, emotional and caring they are. (They) also work with local and state governmental organizations and agencies to advocate for laws and policies that prevent animal suffering and promote the fair and compassionate treatment of animals.”
Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstrom, MN. The organization’s website – wildcatsanctuary.org – says it “provides a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspires change to end the captive wildlife crisis.” It “combines natural and spacious habitats with a life free of exhibition and exploitation…… and advocates for No More Wild Pets in order to create a world where animal sanctuaries are no longer needed.”
Closer to Home:
Forever Home Animal Sanctuary, in New Ulm, has been run by Sue and Pete Guggisberg since 2000. At first, they were completely privately funded, but realized they had bigger needs as they were caring for more animals; they received their non-profit 501©3 status in 2006. Sue and Pete both devote much of their time to the sanctuary, and do it on a volunteer basis. To help cover living expenses and some of the bills that go along with caring for animals, Pete also works as a full-time machinist at Auto Value in New Ulm. They also run a private animal cremation center on the premises.
They also rely on many volunteers to help take care of the almost-100 animals that live onsite. Currently, Forever Home houses many cats, plus horses, a pony, two miniature horses, a dog, and some roosters.
The Guggisbergs focus on animals that have been abused or have special needs. They also work with various humane societies that may run across animals that have been returned because of difficulties in being around people or may have physical disabilities. Sometimes, they can receive an animal from a family who can’t take care of it anymore, but this is done on a case-by-case basis and is not very common. “We will take any animal as long as we have space,” Sue said.
They work with rescue groups from across the country. For example, they have gotten horses from as far away as North Carolina, and cats with special needs from as far away as Atlanta. Sue explained that volunteer groups will transport a number of animals a certain number of miles, then another group takes them the next step, and so on.
“We work with all types of animals,” she said. “Once they come here, they stay and live a full life.”
Additionally, Forever Home partners with MNSNAP (Spay Neuter Assistance Program) which provides high-quality, low-cost spays, neuters and vaccinations to pets at Minnesota shelters and rescue organizations, and to pets of low-income people. According to Sue, the organization comes to their site several times a year to spay or neuter dogs, cats (including feral cats) and rabbits.
One of Sue’s favorite activities at the sanctuary is when they bring various groups for tours, including people from MRIC (an organization that serves people with disabilities) or from people living in assisted living. “It’s one of the neatest things to see the animals giving back,” she said. “People like to be with animals, but they can’t always have them where they live.”
For more information about setting up tours, or ways you can get involved, call Sue at 507-276-4545, or visit the organization’s website at foreverhomeanimalsanctuary.org.
For more information about Forever Pet Cremation Services, call Sue at 507-276-5230 (they don’t currently have a website). They charge $75 for pets under 30 pounds and $85 for pets 30-90 pounds. Sue said they take this part of their jobs very seriously, because it’s so important for pet owners to have their pets taken care of with dignity at the end of their lives.
Little Acorn Sanctuary is in Castle Rock (between Northfield and Farmington)
Tara Lien, her wife Becky, and their two daughters (Adia, 9, and Brooklyn, 8) have run the sanctuary for the past couple years.
Tara described Little Acorn in a similar fashion as Sue Guggisberg described Forever Home. “It’s a safe space for animals, their forever home,” she said. “Once they come here, they stay here and live a (hopefully) long healthy life.” They also hold a non-profit status. They currently house goats and chickens that have been neglected or have medical problems.
The Liens had never lived in the country, but wanted to have more land and privacy, with space for a large garden and for chickens. Tara is a school social worker, so she has more time in the summer to work in their garden, and Becky is a microbiologist in Eagan. They found a 7-acre lot, built a home and moved in 2017. They would eventually like to build a barn so they could house more animals.
They currently house 6 goats (including two that suffered physical damage with frostbite; the others have come from farms that can’t take care of them) and 11 chickens. All of the chickens (except one) lay eggs; the Liens let them eat their own eggs (like they would in the wild) and also give them chicken food (from a farm store) and fruits and vegetables.
Tara said goats are actually pickier eaters than most people imagine. They don’t necessarily like grass (which might come as a blow to someone who wants goats in order to not have to mow their lawn), but they do like hay, alfalfa, and fruits and veggies (apples are their favorites, she said). She also said the goats like to eat the kale and Brussels sprouts from the family garden – “but we try not to let that happen,” she said.
“We don’t take people’s pets,” Tara said. “Our personal hearts are in animals with special needs and animals that have nowhere else to go.”
Little Acorn occasionally holds open houses (generally listed on its Facebook page). One thing they plan to do this summer is have children visit and read to the animals, especially the goats. “It will keep the kids reading in the summer, and goats love to hang out with people,” Tara said.
More information about ways to help (volunteer or financial) can be found on their website – littleacornsanctuary.org – or on their Facebook page.
As an animal lover myself (my husband and I have had several dogs and cats over the years – all of whom we have found at humane societies), it warms my heart to know that there are so many people devoted to animals and to keeping them safe, healthy and loved.
Beth Forkner Moe is editor of Southern Minnesota Girlfriends Magazine. She is also a non-profit/small business consultant and freelance writer. You can find out more about her at EnvisionItTogether.com