The first thing you notice is the quiet. The breeze rustling the leaves. The birds singing in the trees. Then you hear a rooster crowing, horses neighing, ducks quacking, and you see goats well… goats just being goats. Welcome to Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary, a little slice of heaven filled with a whole lot of love.
Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary is a place for abused, abandoned and neglected farm animals. “It was always a dream of mine to have a farm,” says Alyssa Barry, co-founder of the Sanctuary with Kevin Dinger. “We got this piece of land and then Hurricane Irma hit,” she recalls. “All of a sudden, these horses just showed up. They had been left behind, tied up as their owners evacuated. Their halters were still on and really damaging their skin.” Alyssa and Kevin soon realized that the horse’s condition wasn’t just because of the Hurricane. “They had all kinds of health issues but even worse, trust issues.”
So, Alyssa and Kevin started taking care of them. Yet Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary wasn’t born from this, even though their menagerie was growing. That took another life changing event.
“2 years ago, I had a heart attack when I was 26-years old,” says Alyssa. She had 99% blockage in her main artery. “Almost dying was a wake-up call to start doing what makes me happy. And the only thing that made me happy after recovery was being with the animals.” The animals that Alyssa healed now started to heal her. “Taking care of these animals is my passion and I realized I didn’t want to waste another day doing something that I didn’t love.”
With Kevin and her mom’s support, Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary was born. And not a moment too late as the animals kept coming. There is Rosie the cow who was rescued by Kevin and just got the best present a cow could ask for… a scratching post! Check out Alyssa’s Instagram and Tik Tok to see Rosie and her scratching post in action. Charlotte, aka “The Manager,” is a sweet and friendly pig saved from Mary’s Ranch slaughterhouse. “The Manager” is an apt title for Charlotte; she follows you around and I’m convinced it’s to keep you happy AND in line. There is Romeo, a beautiful milk-chocolate colored Stallion who comes when called. Keeper, the duck that can’t swim but has the most awesome pool float so she can hang with her friends while they swim. And of course, the chickens and the goats who roam around and make you happy because they are so happy.
However, just taking care of the animals wasn’t enough. “Our idea from the very beginning was to connect the community and the animals so they could learn to love and respect them,” Alyssa explains. To help with that goal, and to support the continuing needs of the animals themselves, Alyssa put together activities where adults and kids get to interact with the animals as they behave like animals. You won’t see animals in cages or tied to a post. Their furry and feathered family roams freely in open enclosures and at night, they are tucked away in their own shelters.
Their first event was painting with goats. “Thirty people attended,” says Alyssa, “and everyone had a great time painting portraits of the goats.” Then came children’s birthday parties, Farmer for a Day, Goat Tea Parties and of course, Goat Yoga. “It’s important to me that our guests understand our animals are not here for entertainment but education,” Alyssa explains. “The fun events you experience come with life lessons on taking care of and respecting farm animals.”
Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary was open for 1 year and things were going so well! There were volunteers to help with the chores, local business sponsors and events to engage the community. Then COVID hit and everything stopped… except for the care the animals still needed. Alyssa and Kevin were back to being a two-person show but thankfully, they are gearing up to reopen February 1st—COVID consciously, of course. “We are starting with just weekends for now,” Alyssa explains. “You will be able to go right on our website—starting February 1st at alyssasanimalsanctuary.com—and book your time.” And another thing Alyssa and Kevin did—with the help of some friends—during COVID. They built a new barn! “We were setting up tents in the front yard to host the events but now we have this great structure.”
Besides planning a visit or event, there are other ways you can help. You can sponsor an animal and get updates on them—Charlotte made a strong case for herself with me—with some levels allowing you to come and watch as they are being cared for. You can volunteer: “Come in the morning, relax on the deck with a cup of coffee then join in the morning feeding!” You can select Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary on Amazon Smile. For those not familiar, with each purchase you make using Amazon Smile, Amazon donates to the charitable organization you have selected at no cost to you! So, you just shop and Amazon gives! Plus, there are business sponsorship programs available with monthly appreciation for the sponsors.
It’s hard not to be happy while visiting Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary. You’re tucked away between tomato farms, surrounded by joyful animals just hanging out being themselves. And how can you not smile at goats perched on top of colorfully decorated giant spool? And while it may be sad to hear some of their stories, to see them thriving and being loved is the happiest of endings. So, if you want to experience a different kind of paradise, book a time and take the short 20-minute drive to Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary. Charlotte will be sure to greet you with a smile!