By DOUG GRAVES
RAVENNA, Ohio — Scarlett, a pig, fell off a meat truck traveling at 60 mph on a highway in Trumbull County. Mac, a Clydesdale, was 500 pounds underweight and so weak he could barely hold his head up. Natasha, a goat, was discovered abandoned on the side of a road in Summit County when she was just a day old.
Examples of abuse and neglect like these occur occasionally. Fortunately, these animals were rescued and given a second chance thanks to Annette Fisher and her Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary.
“Farm animals are often the types of animals that usually fall through the cracks here in Ohio,” she said. “Most county Humane Societies don’t have the facilities available to remove a large animal from such a situation that we see.
“And if the animal has been treated badly enough to find its way to Happy Trails, then it has a ticket to a kind, caring and compassionate life and will not be placed back into food production.”
Fisher has a laundry list of heart-wrenching rescues she’s performed. Five goats were removed from the basement of a drug house in Cleveland. Thirty-one cockfighting roosters were rescued during an animal raid in Lorain County.
A pair of 10-day-old calves suffering from malnutrition were saved, as was Rachel, a potbellied pig which had acid burns over 85 percent of her back and sides.
Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and provides an adoption program for abused, abandoned and neglected farm animals such as horses, ponies, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, goats and cows. Over the past 13 years more than 3,000 animals have come to this farm for rehabilitation or recovery.
“We serve the entire state of Ohio and any other state requesting our help,” Fisher said. “Animals in our program must have been removed from a situation of abuse, neglect or abandonment by law officials, and cruelty charges must be filed against the persons responsible for the crime.”
Her staff works in cooperation with county Humane Societies, animal protective leagues and local and state law enforcement officers. The farm is not a placement service, an animal broker or a retirement home for anyone’s pet.
“If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be the founder of an animal rescue organization, I would have said you were crazy,” she said. “My background is in advertising and I owned and operated an ad agency as well as a retail bridal shop.
“My life was very corporate and filled with business suits and high heels. But in 1999 I moved out into the country and destiny crossed my path.”
One day, a friend offered to pay her to watch her farm animals while on vacation.
“I was not prepared for the sight of a small potbellied pig laying in her own filth and urine in a small enclosed pen,” Fisher said. “I found out the pig had been dropped off at the farm six years earlier by handlers who dropped her getting her off the truck. I don’t think I ever felt as sorry for an animal as I did that pig named Janice.”
Rather than payment she asked for the pig. She took it home.
“Janice made me start to think about all the other farm animals in Ohio that should be removed from a situation of abuse or neglect,” she said.
Fisher’s organization has a community outreach program, such as the Happy Trails Amish Horse Retirement, which provides a peaceful, safe retirement for horses that can no longer serve Amish families.
The Farm Animal Visitation Program allows her to take rescued farm animals to nursing homes, and the Education Program allows her to take rescued animals into schools to talk about kindness and compassion for all animals.
“In order to be accepted here the animal must have been abandoned, neglected or it had to been removed by a humane officer or other law enforcement official first,” she said.
“We also require that the owner or caretaker has animal cruelty charges filed against them; otherwise, we would be enabling owners to continue a cycle of abuse and would be rewarding bad behavior by removing all responsibility from a person who did this to a helpless animal.”
Donations are always accepted, as bills have to be paid at this farm. Grain costs are roughly $400 per week. Seventy bales of hay and 50 bales of straw per week are required. Veterinary and farrier bills are among other expenses.
Happy Trails Farm is located at 5623 New Milford Road, Ravenna, OH 44266. For more information, go to www.hap
pytrailsfarm.org or call Fisher at 330-296-5194.