BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - Toula and Benny are eager to escape the winter cold.
However, Toula and Benny are cows. More specifically, they’re two cows living at an animal sanctuary on the north side of Battle Creek who desperately need a winter-safe shelter.
Toula came to Fauna Animal Sanctuary two years ago. She was small enough then to fit in a small shelter on Fauna’s grounds. But Toula had grown, Benny arrived in February and Fauna has taken in a lot more animals since then.
Which is why the sanctuary needs a new winter shelter that can fit Benny and Toula.
The goal was to have the shelter completed before the start of the season, but a few volunteers and contractors fell through, said Pina Stocking, the owner and founder of the shelter. Stocking does not have a professional estimate yet, but she thinks it might cost around $8,000.
Benny and Toula are the first cows that Fauna has taken in, but the sanctuary has taken in a lot of other farm animals.
It started, however, with rabbits.
Stocking came to Battle Creek from Venezuela 11 years ago. A few years in, she had tried reporting to local shelters about some rabbits she'd seen that were in terrible condition, but the few shelters that take rabbits were full and the Humane Society in the area doesn’t take rabbits.
“I couldn’t leave them there, so I took them,” Stocking said. That was eight years ago.
Her husband, Mike, found an injured pigeon and brought it home. Someone gave them a duck. Then people started referring animals to them.
Now Fauna Animal Sanctuary has more than a hundred animals, including 32 rabbits, 50 ducks, 15 pigeons, scattered numbers of other birds and, of course, two cows.
Eventually, Stocking also went vegan.
“It’s like activism for the animals, help them, create a better society for them and hope that other people little by little will do it for them too,” she said.
Rama Ganesan, who runs the Michiana Vegan Living page on Facebook, has visited the sanctuary and plans to return with a larger group next year. She called it "absolutely beautiful."
“It is so important for people to be able interact with farm animals so we know how individual they are," she said. "They are no different from the dogs and cats we have as companions in our homes.”
The animals in the sanctuary are all very much individual characters. Big Foot is a disabled pigeon who cannot walk. Angelino the duck is blind in one eye. Matilda, Martina and Queen Sophia are a trio of disabled ducks who like to stay close to each other.
They also come from all over. Stocking has had animals come to Fauna from Detroit, Chicago and Kalamazoo, alongside the ones from Battle Creek.
“It’s nice to see somebody who’s willing to work with what aren’t the common species because there aren’t a lot of rescues that will take rabbits, because they’re pretty common pets too but they’re a little harder to adopt out,” said Jennifer Tirrell, a veterinarian with Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic, who has done a lot of work with Fauna’s rabbits and given advice on other sick animals.
Stocking works a full-time job as a dental lab technician at Cerama-Dent in Richland. She cares for the sanctuary animals in her free time and pays for most of the expenses herself, though Fauna is a registered nonprofit and has begun receiving donations and grants just this year, including $1,000 from The Microsanctuary Movement, an initiative to help vegans rescue and care for farm animals, and $2,500 from Rancho Relaxo, a non-profit animal rescue organization and sanctuary in New Jersey.
“If we can have more patrons, it would help,” Stocking said. “We need some help from the community.”
None of the money is used to buy animals, she said.
“It's good to clarify, funds of the sanctuary are used for the animals, food, vet care, supplies and shelter,” she said.
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