Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 22, 2013
Peace Ridge Sanctuary gives animals a second chance
Open house on August 25
Daniella Tessier with rescued pigs Missy and, partially obscured by hay, Hemlock, at Peace Ridge Sanctuary in Penobscot.
by Anne Berleant
On Back Ridge Road, over 130 neglected or abused animals have found a safe haven. Peace Ridge Sanctuary, founded in 2001 by Daniella Tessier, provides a home for farm animals that have been removed from their owners by state animal welfare officers or given up by the owners themselves.
“If I see something that needs to be done, I do it,” Tessier said in a recent interview. “And I’ve been lucky enough to get the help to do it.”
The seven-acre farm also takes in rabbits from animal experiment labs and serves as a way station for dogs and cats sent from “high-kill” shelters, where animals are given scant days before being euthanized. Tessier places cats and dogs in foster homes while searching for adoptive owners, including neonatal kittens. “Kitten season is horrendous,” she said.
Last year, Peace Ridge placed 400 dogs in homes or foster care.
One dog, a three-legged pit bull named Finnuala, found a permanent home with Tessier and her 6-year-old daughter. “She’s the best dog we’ve ever had,” Tessier said.
Peace Ridge Sanctuary receives around 60 phone calls a week and takes in six to 12 animals, split evenly from state animal welfare officers and “owner surrender,” Tessier said.
The rabbits often come surreptitiously from animal lab employees, or are “surplus” lab rabbits, left over and not used for experiments.
Missy, a very large pig, came from an animal cruelty case in Lincoln. Volunteers—and the sanctuary has a regular core of 21—built “the pig chalet” for her and Hemlock, a potbelly pig. The structure is airy and filled with fresh hay. “Every time there’s a new rescue, it seems we have to build a new barn,” Tessier said.
The goats, pigs and a calf show no fear of humans, ambling up to the fences or out of their pens to be stroked.
“One of the major messages we have is that animals deserve to be in clean environments,” she said.
Animals, Tessier said, understand what is going on and know they are in a safe environment. “Adults look at them like moneymakers. They’re used to being afraid, used to seeing their friends taken to slaughter.”
Every farm animal at Peace Ridge Sanctuary is a rescued animal and each is given a name.
“There’s a lot of options for cats and dogs, but not for non-traditional rescues,” Tessier said.
Small flocks of chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks and geese wander in and out of fenced areas, all rescued or surrendered by owners. “Our oldest chickens are 16 years old,” Tessier said.
Tessier said the “myth of happy meat” raised on small, local farms is a false one.
“What I find in the local farming community is a lack of a good standard of care,” Tessier said. “People could be a little more vested in cleanliness.”
“There is no happy meat,” she continued. “Those animals are going straight to the slaughterhouse.
“Many local farms say they’re sustainable and they’re not. If you’re outsourcing your grain from the Midwest, you’re not sustainable.”
She added, “We’re used to being controversial.”
Tessier grew up on a small farm in Massachusetts.
“I was around beef cattle my whole life and decided at a young age I didn’t like it,” she said. “Children can tap into [the idea] that animals are emotional beings.”
Tessier turned vegetarian at age 10 and has been vegan for the past 20 years.
Peace Ridge Sanctuary is a national non-profit organization with a six-member board of directors. The farm runs on $25,000 of donated funds each year and is looking for a larger home. Tessier made her initial down payment on the farm from money saved from teaching.
“It served us well for 13 years,” she said. “Now we’re maxing out.”
Tessier is starting a capital campaign to purchase a farm of “a few hundred acres” in Maine that will allow the sanctuary to grow and serve as “our legacy property.”
“We want Peace Ridge to be there forever. We’re looking way into the future.”
Peace Ridge Sanctuary will hold an open house on Sunday, August 25, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The sanctuary is located at 653 Back Ridge Road in Penobscot.