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Franklin Park's Haven provides hope for abandoned, abused farm animals

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:33 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Dan Kammenzind feeds some of the animals at Hope Haven, a sanctuary for farm animals and poultry, in Franklin Park on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary has some personality conflicts.

Gertie the rooster won't stop pecking at Frankie, an uncommonly friendly turkey. Noah the pot-bellied pig is a known troublemaker, and one particular “Houdini” of a chicken keeps escaping from its fenced-in yard.

All the while, Jack the alpaca and Butters the miniature horse stoically watch the barnyard shenanigans at Hope Haven, where about 100 rescued farm animals co-exist in Franklin Park.

Hope Haven founder Karen Phillips doesn't mind the squabbles and is happy to indulge the quirks and individual needs of the residents.

In fact, the charisma and charm of the animals is exactly what she wants visitors to the farm to see and experience.

“We want people to come see the animals and interact with them. ... They all have personalities,” Phillips said over the crow of a nearby rooster.

“Some are more obnoxious than others,” she said as she glanced over her shoulder.

Phillips is a veterinarian with the Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania, Animal Friends and the Animal Rescue League and a longtime vegan. She started her nonprofit organization in 2011 after seeing abandoned or abused farm animals repeatedly come into animal shelters that weren't necessarily equipped to care for them.

Animals at Hope Haven typically come from situations involving neglect or abuse. Along with traditional farm animals and poultry such as pigs, goats, chickens and ducks, Hope Haven has two alpacas, two llamas, an emu and a few peacocks.

In May of last year, Phillips purchased a home along Wexford Bayne Road in Franklin Park, where she has since set up two pastures, a chicken coop, a pond and a small barn for the animals.

“We want them to enjoy being the creatures they were meant to be here,” said Phillips, noting that she and Hope Haven volunteers strive to provide the animals a high quality of life.

Susie Coston, the national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, an organization based in Watkins Glen, N.Y., said that animals at farm sanctuaries can be ambassadors for vegetarian lifestyles.

“Every animal that you save can tell their story and allow people to connect with them,” Coston said. “These animals are sentient beings that are really no different than dogs or cats.”

Phillips said the need for farm sanctuaries is not new, but more are springing up because people now are more interested in the sources of their food.

“You don't have to be a vegetarian to be involved here,” she said.

Hope Haven is the only farm sanctuary in Allegheny County, though there are several in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Phillips said animals often arrive at Hope Haven injured, underfed and sick, so her veterinary skills come in handy.

Hope Haven doesn't accept animals from pet owners who grew tired of their Easter chicks or whose pot-bellied pigs grew larger than they expected.

“We try not to make it easy for people to surrender their animals,” she said.

With 100 animals, the 7-acre farm nearly is at its maximum capacity, so Phillips hopes to begin finding people with lots of land who can adopt some of the sanctuary residents.

She started Hope Haven with her own money but hopes to transition to running the farm on donations and grants.

“It's been an expensive venture,” she said.

But she thinks it's worth it to save the animals who have come to her sanctuary. “They feel fear and pain. Every one of them is afraid of dying,” she said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com.

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