SAUGERTIES — The Catskill Animal Sanctuary has been hit hard by COVID-19, so much so that the facility has seen its funding cut by 30% and has been forced to end regular, family-oriented visits.
Nearly two years later, the sanctuary is making a strong comeback after the pandemic, restoring its services and rebuilding its focus.
In 2001, Kathy Stevens co-founded the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Since its inception, the sanctuary has acquired 150 acres and rescued over 5,000 animals.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary offers regular and family-oriented tours, bed and breakfast stay at the Homestead, vegan cooking classes, and field trips for local school districts. With the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the sanctuary has not held in-person tours or cooking classes.
Most of the organization’s funding depends on donations from the public. The Catskill Animal Sanctuary has lost a substantial amount of money from 2019 to present, but innovative ideas for hosting virtual field trips and online tours have been shown to the public.
The concept of a virtual sanctuary has proven itself. Fun offers to the public such as Animals on Call have been developed.
Animals on Call is a program in which scheduled calls are made by rescued animals to individuals. The community was invited to schedule calls with specific animals and learn about their rescue stories. Virtual field trips have been opened to schools.
The sanctuary conducts post-educational visitation surveys and has determined that 93% of individuals want to reduce their use of animal products.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary is home to 200 different species. Each rescued animal has a name, although most animals come to the already named sanctuary. These names are retained.
“The animals set the tone,” said Veronica Finnegan, the Sanctuary’s communications director. “Life here at the Sanctuary is on their terms.”
Finnegan has worked at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary for four years.
All animals have outdoor access as well as indoor enclosures. All indoor enclosures are equipped with fans to cool the air and spaces for the animals to sleep comfortably.
The only people with access to the interior enclosures are caregivers and caregivers. Otherwise, access to the interior is reserved for animals. The idea is that animals deserve a place that belongs entirely to them.
Restructuring public access to the sanctuary into a virtual experience has been extremely effective. But the sanctuary had to make more adjustments because of the highly pathogenic bird flu. The disease is transmitted through the droppings and respiratory fluids of birds.
All birds on the property are separated from other animals. The birds at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary are contained in a structure with a roof and screens. This is to avoid any possible contamination from local birds or human visitors who may have chickens or other poultry.
Two of the rescued horses are blind. Both are called Buddy. They are 32 and 35 years old.
The life expectancy of a domestic horse is generally 20 to 30 years. Blindness in a horse is usually a death sentence, but both horses seem to have adapted remarkably well.
The dedication and skill of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary staff, along with the ability to live in a safe and predictable environment, proves that blind horses can thrive.