Taking refuge

Taking refuge

A full-figured pig named Baby lounges, unruffled, in a puddle of mud at Sunrise Sanctuary in Marysville. A lone duck waddles past, oblivious to the prodigious porker to its left.

As the afternoon sun breaks overhead, more and more animals emerge from the grounds’ timeworn structures — a red barn, a small house, a rickety flatbed truck. 

Here, such nonchalance is not only widespread among the denizens, it’s a welcome sign of contentment. Sunrise Sanctuary is a permanent refuge for more than 170 discarded farm and companion animals, a collection that includes rats, bunnies, cats, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, cows, horses, donkeys, chickens, ducks, peacocks, and turkeys.


Animals of all kinds shelter safely — either for rehabilitation or to live out their lives in comfort — at a number of animal sanctuaries in Ohio.

Cooper's hawk enclosure

“Our babies are all unique and special souls that are loving, thoughtful, and funny individuals,” says Sandy Horvath, the animals’ primary caretaker. “They’re not just numbers. They are special beings deserving of our love and respect.”

All around Ohio, animal sanctuaries provide respite and relief for misfit animals, whether they’ve been abused or neglected or simply moved on to greener pastures after their working days ended.

All kinds of styles

Ohioans can pay many of these fine friends a visit — sometimes by appointment, as visitation and admission policies vary. Some sanctuaries and rescues allow animals to remain for life. Others rehabilitate wild animals and release them back into nature. Others socialize animals and prepare them for adoption.

Mindy Mallett founded Sunrise, a nonprofit charity, in 2001 to provide a dash of dignity for animals that had been forgotten. Here, they freely roam the spacious grounds, where they meet up with picture-snapping visitors on select Saturdays during “Open Barn Days.”

Volunteers such as Horvath operate the farm, which depends on donations from the public. 

“We hope that once they get to know these animals, they see them in a different light,” Horvath says. 

Offering hope, offering homes

Most sanctuaries offer a place where animals can be loved and respected. It took one pot-bellied pig named Janice to convince Annette Bragg to establish Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, in Ravenna, in 2001. Bragg caught wind of the pig and decided to rescue her. She later adopted Janice’s buddy, George, and built a log cabin to house them.

Happy Trails now is home to about 130 animals that roam an 11-acre track. Out of the 190 animals the sanctuary rescued last year, 170 were adopted. They include Amish horses, which stewardship coordinator Lissy Kuhn says often are rescued from the auction block, which can spell an uncertain future. 

“They’re really sweet horses,” she says. “The farmers feel a lot better when they can retire their horse versus taking them to auction.”

Finding some-bunny to love

The Ohio House Rabbit Rescue in Columbus specializes in bunnies, helping them to socialize with the ultimate goal of going to a new home.

That’s important, because there are hundreds of unwanted pet rabbits that emerge each year in the Buckeye State. Rabbit Rescue is all about giving them a new life, one that includes regular meals and lots of love.

The shelter has been around since 2013 and houses about 40 rabbits in private pens that contain all they need. Staff are happy to match visitors with the perfect bunny companion to welcome into their home.

Animal sanctuaries around Ohio

Ohio Wildlife Center, Powell: Visit the state’s largest wildlife hospital just north of Columbus. You’ll encounter about 50 animal ambassadors that represent a small percentage of the more than 6,000 patients the center treats yearly.

Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Mansfield: A 90-acre, wooded retreat where you can encounter birds being cared for after suffering mishaps or illnesses, including several eagles and various species of hawks.

Butternut Farm Wildcat Sanctuary, Johnstown: Homeless wildcats and related species find a home in a rustic abode 25 miles northeast of Columbus, which runs solely on donations.

Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary, Chesapeake: A haven for about two dozen wolfdogs — crosses between a dog and any of a variety of wolf breeds.

Forever Safe Farm Animal Education Center, Salem: The rolling hills of eastern Ohio are a forever home to more than 100 rescued and retired animals. You’ll see a range of animals including camels, horses, alpacas, raccoons, and wallabies.

Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, Port Clinton: An appointment-only rescue center near Lake Erie that provides a healthy environment for animals that are old, sick, or even terminally ill.

Ohio Pet Sanctuary, Cincinnati: A combination pet supply store and rescue center that focuses on small animals including birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, ferrets, small rodents, and reptiles..

Glen Helen Raptor Center, Yellow Springs: Learn all about raptors, including hawks, kestrels, and owls, at the center, part of Glen Helen Nature Preserve, which helps broken birds and provides education about their role in our lives.

Lasa Sanctuary, Wooster: There are more than 130 farm animals living peaceably in a bucolic Wayne County spread that promotes kindness to animals and a vegan lifestyle.