Sanctuary provides a safe haven for farm animals

Nov 10, 2018

Nibbles the goat peeked out from behind a stall door where he was hanging out with Puddles the pig, who was taking a nap at the Don’t Forget Us, Pet Us animal sanctuary.

Deb Devlin hosts sixteen horses, two cows, goats, pigs, a llama, an emu, and chickens, geese, and pigeons, among other animals at her farm. All of the animals are rescues — most of whom were abused or being sold for slaughter.

Her first rescue, about 17 years ago, was Mary the pony. On a Sunday drive, Devlin and her husband passed a downed pony in Westport. Devlin could see that the pony was in pain, and stopped to knock on the door to the house to see what was going on.

When the owner said the pony had been down for three days, Devlin knew she had to act. She eventually persuaded the owner to let her buy the pony so she could give her proper care.

Mary had laminitis, which is an extremely painful inflammation of the hoof that makes it almost impossible for the animal to stand and put weight on its hooves. Devlin said that once she and her husband had returned with medicine, cash, and a horse trailer, it took half an hour to bring Mary across the field to the trailer.

Faced with the steps up to the trailer, Mary seemed ready to give up.

“Your whole life can change, but you need to get into this trailer,” Devlin encouraged the pony.

Seeming to understand, Mary reared back and up the steps to safety.

Many of Devlin’s animals have a similar origin story. Some were found along the road, after a hurricane, or bought from meat auctions by animal lovers. Once they arrive at Don’t Forget Us, Pet Us, they are given medical care and love.

“They all live somewhat naturally in a herd,” Devlin said.

The animals are calm and friendly, which is something of a miracle for dozens of rescues. They approach and nuzzle up to visitors and lean in for pats. Many are given relatively free range over the property and wander around to socialize.

“I do love how they get to interact,” Devlin said. “They’re all part of the family.”

Many of the animals are disabled in some way. Jed, a horse, is blind, and another horse, Duncan, has COPD. Another horse has functionally lost the use of one of his eyes. One of the ducks has lost a foot, and Ping Pong, one of the goats, arrived with a fractured leg.

Devlin has dutifully nursed the animals back to health. Ping Pong got his name from his exuberant, bouncing run on his newly healed leg.

Most of the animals ended up at the sanctuary because they had nowhere else to go. Devlin explained that many owners who need or want to surrender animals have an incredibly hard time doing so as many shelters are full to capacity. This is especially true for horses. Devlin said many sanctuaries and shelters will only take horses they think they can adopt out, leaving many older, sick, or disabled horses without a place to go.

Now, with the winter season approaching, Devlin is figuring out how to house all the animals in her care. She has never had more than eleven horses at the sanctuary before.

Financial donations, food for the animals, and free or discounted building materials or labor are always helpful. The sanctuary would also welcome volunteers to help with farm chores and fundraising, and is especially looking for volunteers who have experience with nonprofits, grant writing, and soliciting corporate and foundation donations.

The best way to get in touch with the sanctuary, which Devlin runs along with Jill Tagino, is through their Facebook page. They can also be contacted via their website