A small animal sanctuary is making big changes in the lives of the critters that roam the land and in the hearts of the community members who choose to visit. From farm animals to former pets, close to 60 unwanted, abandoned, and rehomed animals currently call the local Goats with Horns home.
The now very busy haven started quietly in 2012 when owner Michelle Lukasiewicz bought the property with the sole intention of turning it into an animal sanctuary.
“I had always felt a kinship with all animals, and became a vegetarian at 22 and since then a vegan,” says Lukasiewicz. “I knew if I ever could do anything like this I would since I spent most of my vacations visiting animal sanctuaries. Everything aligned and so here we are!”
Each animal has a very special story, to say the least. There are Craigslist recoveries like Gabby and Gibby, two goats who were excess from the dairy industry. The four-legged duo happened to be the first residents to dig their hooves into the sanctuary’s soil.
There are extreme cases like Mr. McFluffers and his chicken friends, found in the middle of the desert by a couple who stopped for a drink of water while riding ATVs. They left the tiny flock food and water, contacted Goats with Horns, and offered to bring the chickens back if Lukasiewicz would take them in. She agreed, not knowing what type of medical attention they would require, but was ready to take on the challenge.
“Mr. McFluffers later had what’s called bumblefoot, which is basically a bad infection that can be fatal if left untreated because it can spread to tissues and bones,” Lukasiewicz says. “We had to spend an extensive amount of money to get surgery to remove it.”
There are also 4H rescues like Thomas the sheep, raised with love and care by a high school student who turned to Goats with Horns after discovering that he would be auctioned off for slaughter at the fair.
“She just couldn’t allow that to happen because she genuinely considers him part of the family,” Lukasiewicz says. “She and her family still visit Thomas and you can see the strong bond between them.”
The animals’ pasts have become impactful teaching moments for the more than 300 people who tour the sanctuary each year. They learn about the plight of farm animals, see first-hand the horrors of factory farming, and are educated on the responsibilities of owning and caring for farm animals.
“People need to understand that potbellied pigs get huge and don't stay small,” Lukasiewicz says. “When you buy backyard chickens, about 10 percent will be male, and when owners find they can’t produce eggs, they’re no longer needed or wanted.”
Oftentimes the animals’ history and the sanctuary’s mission truly resonates with many visitors who become volunteers to offer help and give lots of love.
“Our volunteer group has expanded, and we have had the opportunity to work with some amazing groups including the Girl Scouts, Arizona Cardinals, Direct Action Everywhere, 24 Carrots, Leaf Side, Allstat,e and even charter schools,” Lukasiewicz says.
Help is always welcomed as Lukasiewicz currently cares for cows, ducks, pigs, turkeys, chickens, feral cats, sheep, tortoises, and goats. It sounds like a handful, but there are so many animals in need, the sanctuary can’t take in every request, so Lukasiewicz always encourages the community to do what they can to help.
“Foster, donate, walk a shelter dog, speak up, try plant-based foods, and support your local sanctuaries,” Lukasiewicz says.
Goats with Horns currently books Saturday morning tours by appointment and asks for a $10 donation to help provide the necessities for the current residents. When the weather cools down, some of the most popular events at the farm include bingo and movie nights. For more information on the sanctuary, ways to donate and volunteer opportunities, visit GWHSanctuary.org.