Now You Are Home

Pasado’s Safe Haven is dedicated to ending animal cruelty

Written by Hayley Elkin

The gates open. To one side there are 36 baby goats who were recently rescued from a dairy farm and to the other are long-time residents Harley the goat and Alfie the alpaca. There’s a sign that reads “Sweet creatures who pass this way once scared and alone, now you are safe, now you are home.”

That home is Pasado’s Safe Haven, the Northwest’s first farm sanctuary and a nonprofit that is fighting to create a better world for all animals.

The nonprofit is named after a beloved 21-year-old donkey named Pasado who lived in a popular community park just outside of Seattle. In 1992, three teenage boys snuck into his pasture and tortured him to death.

Two years later, in 1994, the first law that made animal cruelty a felony in Washington state was passed — it is known as the Pasado Bill. Three years later, Pasado’s Safe Haven was founded.

Today, Pasado’s Safe Haven has four main programs used in their fight against animal suffering: homelessness prevention, rescue and investigation, community outreach and their sanctuary.

“Animal cruelty takes a variety of different forms so we have four different program areas,” says Laura Henderson, Executive Director of Pasado’s Safe Haven. “Each program is designed to target a specific need in the fight against animal cruelty.”

Homelessness prevention is a large part of their work. To help prevent shelter overpopulation and keep animals off the streets, they operate three spay and neuter clinics, two of which are mobile and often visit more rural areas where they can serve populations who have less access to these services. Their clinics have spayed and neutered over 38,000 animals to date.

They also have an investigations and rescue team that investigates over 500 cases of animal cruelty and neglect every year.

Whenever possible, they work in tandem with local law enforcement, animal control and other animal rescue organizations. However, Pasado’s Safe Haven has found that too often crimes against animals are not treated with enough seriousness. They are constantly working to strengthen animal cruelty training within law enforcement and to improve animal cruelty laws by filling in any gaps in the law.

Through their work with other animal organizations, Pasado’s Safe Haven is able to help in large-scale rescues, be that three consecutive severe cat hoarding cases or more than 92 chickens in California needing a home. Many of those animals come back to Pasado’s Safe Haven sanctuary to receive necessary medical care before being put up for adoption.

“Meanwhile, these chickens or any of our other animals, become really important ambassadors,” Laura says. “So many don’t get to come through our gates and we know that. These are the lucky ones.”

The sanctuary in Sultan, Washington is home to anywhere from 200 to 250 animals at a time. What’s unique about their fight against animal cruelty is that they fight for all animals, including farm animals.

Recent rescues have included 36 young goats, who were rescued from a dairy farm after being born male and deemed useless for the farm. A batch of 92 hens were rescued after their egg production dropped at only two years old.

“There’s something really special about seeing the chickens and knowing that they came from such awful conditions and then seeing them come out of their little transport cages,” Laura says. “Being able to flap their wings, peck in the dirt and just watching them lounge in the sun is such a good feeling.”

Part of their fight to end animal cruelty means that Pasado’s Safe Haven advocates for a vegan diet. Many of their dogs and cats are rescued from cases of cruelty and neglect, but the farm animals are typically rescued from dairy and meat operations.

“To see the animals and listen to them coo and gurgle and talk to each other, it’s so different from going into a grocery store and seeing them as nothing but a packaged product,” Laura says. “There’s a huge disconnect.”

When you’re standing face-to-face with a 2,900-pound, carrot-loving cow named Baby it can be hard to connect that to the frozen hamburger patties we’ve become accustomed to seeing in our grocery stores. A cow like Baby would not be anywhere near his enormous size naturally. But because his mother was a dairy cow, she was given hormones while pregnant with him. Baby was rescued before he could be slaughtered, but the evidence of his time in the food industry is clear in his size alone.

It’s stories like these ones that make Pasado’s Safe Haven encourage a vegan diet. This is where their outreach program becomes a large part of their organization.

Pasado’s Safe Haven believes that if people are informed about what is happening to animals that are raised for food, they can then make choices that align with their own values regarding animal cruelty.

They do outreach in a number of different ways, including providing resources to help make choices that reduce animal suffering, hosting sanctuary tours and special events, and their CARE Program (Compassion for Animals, Respect for Everyone) that aims to teach children kindness toward animals.

“I think we have an obligation to tell the stories for these animals, to bear witness to their suffering,” Laura says. “And then to inspire people to do better by them.”

Employees at Pasado’s Safe Haven emphasize that they never want to make anyone feel bad about their diet. It’s an open environment that invites everyone to come and learn about the animals and how they can start taking steps toward a cruelty-free lifestyle.

“We’re okay with people starting somewhere; we’re not going to criticize someone for not immediately going vegan,” says Ashley Wisdom, the Animal Caregiver Supervisor. “We’re going to show them that there are other options and that these changes can be made fairly easily.”

There are moments when the idea of conquering animal cruelty can feel daunting, Laura says. Just this year, a survey of college campuses done by peta2 revealed that daily vegan options across campuses have increased drastically since 2013. The number of schools that have been given an “A” grade for vegan options has more than doubled and the number of schools given a “B” grade has tripled. Seeing evidence of a cultural change and knowing that their work is making a difference is what keeps the employees at Pasado’s Safe Haven going, Laura says.

The animals who come to Pasado’s Safe Haven act as a face for their movement and a resource for educating consumers. When people come to their sanctuary and interact with their animals it helps them understand the organization’s work in a way that they otherwise might not have been able to, Laura says.

Recently, they took on eight sheep from a couple who were murdered over a land dispute in Arlington, Washington. The sheep were beloved members of the couple’s family and when there was no one left to take care of them, Pasado’s Safe Haven took them in. The sheep tend to be shy, but among them, Benson and Eloise seem to be the most interactive as they tentatively look for crackers.

This sheep herd has been spending their time with Oscar, a gentle, 8-month-old sheep who gets along best with people, especially if there’s a treat up for grabs.

From the many personalities of the sheep, to Joshua, the pocket-sniffing snack-stealing goat and Norma Jean, the pig who bobs for grapes in a kiddie pool, the animals at Pasado’s Safe Haven make the nonprofit’s work worthwhile.

Every animal that comes through the sanctuary gates is made the same promise: “now you are safe, now you are home.”

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