Tours at Animal Friends Sanctuary benefit shelter, promote compassion

Good News Notes:

Two-year-old Blake Burkley dissolved into a fit of giggles when it came time to feed the cows.

Perched on her mother’s hip, the girl laughed as cows named Mary and Jesus searched with their tongues for a tasty treat. For Alexa Burkley of Irwin, a tour at Animal Friends Sanctuary in Unity was a perfect way to introduce Blake and Briggs, 11 months, to creatures they don’t normally see.

“We’re just really trying to teach compassion with animals,” she said.

Plus, it was a good opportunity to support Youngwood-based nonprofit Animal Friends of Westmoreland that operates a shelter and adoption center for dogs, cats and rabbits, in addition to the farmland sanctuary, said father Brad Burkley.

Saturday’s tours were the first event at the sanctuary property since the coronavirus pandemic started, said executive director Kelli Brisbane. The organization acquired the land in 2017 to provide a home for abused and neglected farm animals such as sheep, goats, and pigs. It was important to begin introducing the animals to people other than those who regularly provide them with care, she said.

About 50 people signed up for tours. Liam Saltarelli, 6, of Greensburg, had a blast feeding sheep and trying to get treats to a trio of goats and a mini mule. He was a bit more hesitant of feeding the cows.

“I’m so excited we got to come out here,” said grandmother Jodi Morley of Jeannette. “He just loves animals.”

Brisbane said the organization is planning to expand the sanctuary on the property’s 62 acres by allowing each species its own space and more freedom to come and go. The farm animals will spend their entire lives at the sanctuary….”

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