HORSEPLAY: Animal Rescue Center: House Between Houses
A DISPLAY OF creatures large and small, domesticated and wild, reside at Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene. Unfortunately, all of them are there because of owner neglect, abuse and/or cruelty. Most arrive emaciated, their bodies reduced to skin and bone. Their hair has fallen out and they are riddled with mites, worms and disease. You name it, and they probably suffer from it.
Sara Penhallegon, 42, the center’s director, veterinary technician and licensed wildlife rehabilitator, looks after them while caring for the animals and rehabilitating them to make them adoptable.
She started working in the veterinary field in 1995 in a veterinary practice. She later became a licensed veterinary technician. In 2000, she began working with wildlife alongside other experienced and licensed rehabilitation people. She said that around 2012 she got her own rehab license.
Currently, Penhallegon and his assistants are working on a tedious animal hoarding situation from which Clallam County Animal Control has seized over 200 animals.
“A lot of times we have to say no when asked to save an animal,” she said. “Unless law enforcement asks us to. These have priority over other rescues.
The rescue of more than 200 animals from one site was “an unusual start to the new year, and it is the largest case, in terms of the most animals we have ever captured from one site” .
Previously, the largest cases involved an average of around 100 animals.
“2020 was probably our worst year for cruelty cases overall,” she said. “We had the most cases of cruelty that we have ever had. I don’t remember our number, but we had cases of physical violence; we had regular cases of starvation, neglect, hoarding. These are normal activities that we do very regularly, usually on a smaller scale.
When I arrived at the center, she and an assistant were in the isolation barn documenting a group of turkeys they had collected from the site. They weighed, measured, checked the feathers for mites and the skin for lesions. Then each bird was given a dose of antibiotics and vaccines before being placed in a large horse stall and a modernized pen to hold the birds for a 10-day isolation period.
Once certain that the birds will not infect the rest of the animals in the center, they will move to a larger area to prepare for adoption. In the meantime, the turkeys will snack on healthy foods and drink from plenty of clean, fresh water.
Penhallegon then gave me a tour of the facilities. First, she introduced me to the mini Dexter cows that arrived 1.5 years ago on a cruelty case.
“We had 13 to start. One group was adopted, and now we only have four left,” Penhallegon said. “All of our farm animals here are from cruelty cases seized by county animal control officers.”
Then she entered the enclosure of a newly arrived emu in her isolation enclosure. I was surprised by the size of the bird’s prehistoric three-toed clawed feet. Once her quarantine is over, she will join another emu, a giant pig and a llama in a pasture.
She pointed out some pasture to the new, unfinished dog barn. Fortunately, it was finished enough to house 16 recently rescued Anatolian shepherds who were “living in horrific conditions,” she said.
“We’ve rehabilitated them, and some are starting to be available for adoption,” she said.
The “we” she refers to is a plethora of supportive volunteers.
“We probably have about 100 volunteers on our roster,” Penhallegon said. “Among them we have 40 to 50 regulars who help us when they can.”
There was a beautiful black pony and her adorable baby mini-donkey, who had never been touched or handled.
“She’s really wild,” she said.
Nearby were three horses renamed Angel, Diva and Tilly. All three had been starved and two had bruises all over their bodies.
In another section were the chicken and rooster pens, and another contained about 30 neutered or neutered rabbits.
“Any animal that it is possible to neuter or neuter, we do,” she said.
Inside the main building, she escorted me to the “hot room”, which houses “cold-blooded animals” and snake-like reptiles, including a python. Another room housed slide turtles, which are illegal to breed. Another room contained cats, and in another birds.
The main building also housed the offices and a full hospital including X-ray, ultrasound and dental equipment. Penhallegon is grateful to have the help of five vets who volunteer their time to help.
Penhallegon’s house is located on a hill overlooking the property. Nearby, and away from the public, is an animal center where Bob the bobcat and other wild animals live.
A pet food bank is also on site for those in urgent short-term need, and pet food is also sent to local food banks.
Penhallegon’s goal is to get all pets adopted. Even then, she’s very picky about who can adopt. The center considers many things when reviewing applications to ensure an animal goes to a good home. Primarily, a person must have experience with the breed or species being considered. Sometimes a “really easy-going horse” can be adopted by someone less experienced with horses, but “we don’t adopt a single horse” from a single home because “horses are herd animals”.
“We pick people pretty well,” she said. “We speak with their vet first, then we do home visits.
“We turn more people away than we say yes to them.”
A facility as large and efficient as Center Valley can only exist through the continued support of benefactors and donations, large and small. Some make occasional donations and others monthly. All this if he provides vital assistance to the establishment and to the animals.
“We have wonderful donors and volunteers,” noted Penhallegon. “There’s no way I could do it myself, so we wouldn’t be here without them all.”
For more information or to donate, contact Center Valley Animal Rescue, visit www.centervalleyanimalrescue.org or call 360-765-0598.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sundays of each month.
If you would like to list an equestrian event, clinic or seminar, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call him at 360-460-6299.