Driving to our seventh stop on the Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour felt like a major milestone. It marked the halfway point in our road trip both geographically and relative to the number of scheduled sanctuary stops we had planned.
In a way, we felt a new appreciation for just how far we had travelled and this gave us a fresh burst of energy and excitement around what was to come.
Our visit to New Moon Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary in Arlington, Washington was also our first sanctuary stop on American soil. It would also be the first sanctuary we visited that specialized in the care of a particular species; in this case, the domestic farm goat.
Melissa Fanucci, New Moon’s Director greets us with a big smile as we pull into the sanctuary nestled amongst the forested hills and windy roads of northern Snohomish County. Ellen Felsenthal, New Moon’s Founder, waves at us from the seat of her bulldozer as she zips by.
New Moon is a sanctuary for animals in need, particularly goats. They provide rescue, rehabilitation and adoption services for otherwise unwanted goats brought in via owner surrender and animal control. The name for the sanctuary is fitting—a new moon represents the start of a new cycle, a time for rebirth. That’s what the animals get when they arrive here: a chance at a new and better life.
Ziggy was the goat who started it all back in 1999.
Ziggy was a petting zoo goat at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where Ellen was working at the time. Ziggy had developed a skin condition that made his skin rough and his hair fall out, rendering him “unpettable.” With no other use for him, his zoo decided that he should be euthanized.
Ellen thought he deserved more than that so she offered to take him home. Shortly thereafter, she discovered that his skin condition was simply an allergic reaction which was easily treated with a little bit of medication. In no time at all, Ziggy had regained his soft and healthy coat of fur. In fact, Ziggy lived a full and happy 14 years after his rescue, acting as the farm’s ambassador, greeting guests and welcoming new arrivals.
Knowing that goats are social creatures and connect well with their own kind, Ellen took in another goat, Nigel, as a rescue and a companion for Ziggy.
Over the next few years, more goats came into Ellen’s care and in 2003 she purchased the six acre property now called New Moon.
All the goats at New Moon are domestic breeds, and many of them, like the Nubian and Lamancha, are victims of the dairy industry. As with cows, all males born in the dairy industry are considered by-products and are typically killed for meat. Boer goats, on the other hand, are specifically bred for meat.
The sprawling sanctuary is split in two sections: the Adoptable Herd and the Sanctuary Herd. The Adoptable Herd is typically made up of 20-30 animals at one time. This past summer, however, they had up to 60 animals in search of their forever homes, many of whom came to New Moon after being seized by animal control from situations of neglect or abuse.
Upon arrival at New Moon, animals are acclimated in the quarantine pens where they have a health screening. Any goats requiring ongoing medical treatment, or who are recovering from procedures will stay in quarantine until they can be adopted or integrated with the rest of the residents.
Though we can’t enter the quarantine pen, we meet the Golden Girls, four senior Saanen goats who were rescued earlier this year from a horrible neglect situation. Purple, Lucy, Patience and Penelope lived their whole lives as dairy goats in a perpetual, torturous cycle. For more than a decade they were continuously bred, their babies would be taken away so they could be milked, and then they were bred again.
When they arrived at New Moon they were completely emaciated, covered in lice, and barely alive. In fact, on the standard body condition score for goats (a scale that grades a goat’s health from 1-5, with healthy goats in the 2.5-4 range) the girls were a zero.
Months later, the sweet Golden Girls are now healthy and happy. The reason why they’re still quarantined is because they have CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) and CAEV (Caprine arthritis encephalitis virus), which are chronic diseases that can be spread to other goats. With proper care and treatment however, the conditions can be easily managed with no undue harm on the animals.
Despite their troubling pasts, the Girls are loving and affectionate towards humans and are patiently waiting for the perfect forever home where they can be adopted out together.
New Moon’s focus on rescuing and rehabilitating goats specifically has its benefits and challenges. “Ruminants are totally different,” Melissa says. “They have their own health issues, their own concerns. But since we’ve been doing this, we’ve been able to help more than 1500 goats of multiple breeds, all with lots of personality.”
Having cared for goats for more than 20 years, Ellen knows more about them than some veterinarians, especially those who typically only see goats as livestock.
For vets focused on herd management and farming, an animal care’s protocol will usually end at the first sign of illness or injury. Ellen understands, however, that in most cases the animal’s condition can be treated, managed and even healed with some patience and a little bit of extra effort.
New Moon Farm strives to promote compassion and respect for all living creatures, whether they have health challenges or not. They have a respected presence in the local community and by offer ongoing educational opportunities.
New Moon opens its door to the public once a month and gives visitors the opportunity to spend as much time with the goats as they wish. They also provide goat education sessions like a “Goats 101” class, which is a fun, hands-on workshop packed with useful information about how to care for goats.
Though both Ellen and Melissa are vegan, New Moon’s focus is more about education than pushing a pro-vegan message.
“We want to show the full range of intellect and compassion and feelings these animals have so that people can see the animals as individuals,” explains Melissa. “They’re totally unique, they’re all intelligent. They’re fully formed animals with their own personalities. We hope people start to see that only looking at them for the purpose they serve does them injustice.”
“Our culture is so far removed from the food industry,” adds Ellen. “People don’t always make the connection that goats have to have babies in order to be milked. And that 50 percent of those babies aren’t wanted so they’re killed for meat.”
New Moon is 100% donation- and volunteer-based. With more than 8,000 hours of work being done by volunteers every year (including the 30+ hours that Melissa and Ellen each put in every week to keep the place running), volunteers are a huge part of why they’re successful.
“We have a group called the Manure Management Team who are amazing,” says Melissa.
“They come out in pouring rain and shovel goat s^*t all day and they do it because they love the animals. They don’t get anything out of it other than knowing that they’re making a difference in these animals’ lives.”
New Moon is also the only rescue in the Pacific Northwest that takes owner-surrendered goats. This means that if someone has a goat that they can’t or don’t want to take care of anymore they can surrender it to the sanctuary instead of trying to sell or destroy it.
Though they try to adopt out as many companions as they can, they also have a rigorous adoption process. Part of the final adoption contract requires that the animal not be bred or used for milk or meat. They also have a strict policy that says any goats they adopt out can be returned if for any reason the caregiver can no longer care for the animal.
The network for people can can and want to adopt a goat is much smaller than those who want to adopt a cat or a dog. New Moon is mindful not to alienate or disparage potential adopters who aren’t vegan, and appreciates anyone who wants to put in the work to care for an animal in need.
“Our #1 goal is to make sure that the goats are being taken care of,” explains Melissa.
“If we have to repossess a goat, we will. If an owner can’t take care of their adopted animal for any reason, we will take the animal back, no questions asked.”
As we make our way to the Sanctuary Herd, Lily and Jiminy – two affectionate barn cats – intercept our path, demanding we stop for snuggles.
The Sanctuary Herd is made up of animals who for various reasons have made New Moon their forever home. Some have unique behavioural quirks, others have ongoing health issues, and some just fit in so perfectly that there would be no better home for them than right here!
The curious crew of the Sanctuary Herd leisurely approach and introduce themselves. Chris walks further afield to take some photos but is stalked by Joe, Derick, Nigel and Winnie who photobomb his efforts.
I am immediately enamoured with Jareth, a handsome boy named for his long, luscious locks akin to David Bowie’s coiffure in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth.
Jareth is of the Fainting goat breed. Fainting goats make a name for themselves because they suffer from a temporary neurological paralysis when they’re startled or excited. Unfortunately, some humans use this condition for their own amusement and even breed them to have the seizure-inducing condition for entertainment purposes.
Jareth surely appreciates the stability and predictability of being part of the permanent Sanctuary Herd.
We also meet Dumbledore who suffers from bad arthritis. Dumbledore and his pal Professor Lupin were offloaded at New Moon from the back of a pickup truck. Dumbledore’s legs were zip-tied together and he had a large piece of wood over him. The driver quickly dumped them without any explanation.
Dumbledore’s feet were in horrible shape and his living horns had been sawed off at some point; basically an amputation.
Tipsy, an older girl, watches us from the side of the barn where she leans her upper body on a low wooden ledge.
Tipsy was born with a congenital defect that made her legs crooked. She was meant to be a dairy goat but the farmer didn’t know what to do with her so they brought her to New Moon. She likes to find innovative places around the sanctuary to lean her upper body on so she can rest off of her front legs.
Other permanent residents of the Sanctuary Herd include three horses: Eclipse, Harmony, and Tom; an enormous but gentle black beauty with feet the size of dinner plates. Tom’s size is the result of being a retired Amish draft horse. Though he’s only nine years old, he suffers from severe arthritis.
Eclipse was a by-product of the Premerin industry. She was rescued from a horse farm in Alberta so as to not suffer the same fate as her mother: a lifetime of being forcibly bred, confined, used and abused.
Premerin is a hormone replacement drug for humans that is made from a pregnant mare’s urine. Female horses are impregnated and then hooked up to a catheter so their urine can be collected. Save for being let out into the field to give birth, the mares spend their entire fertile lives (about 8-9 years) cooped up in a barn in a continuous cycle of pregnancy and birth. Their female calves are kept to be bred as soon as they’re old enough, while their male calves are sold for meat. Once infertile, the mares are slaughtered.
All this to produce a drug that can actually have more side effects than the cruelty-free alternatives that are readily available.
We end our visit at Ellen’s home, perched on the hill overlooking the pastures at New Moon. Ellen and Melissa have to make their way into town for their board meeting but Ellen welcomes us inside, where we see that sanctuary life has extended to the handful of indoor cats that share her home.
We accept her offer to a warm shower before setting up our van for the night parked at the bottom of the hill.
As the moon rises over the horizon, we can’t help but feel like our visit here feels like a new beginning for the Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour.
New Moon Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located in Arlington, Washington dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of animals in need. You can view the calendar of events or donate to the sanctuary on their website.
This article is part of a series from The Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour; The Seva Life’s 10,000 kilometer road trip across Canada and the United States to visit and volunteer at animal sanctuaries and raise awareness about compassionate living.