The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties offers weekend tours to the public from April through October. Visitors are encouraged to experience animals as individual beings and to recognize the similarities between the farmed animals and their own pets. The tours are intended to sensitize people to the unique qualities, behaviors, emotions and social nature of the rescued residents and to help people understand the impact that their food choices have. Visitors may touch the animals and even give a belly rub to a pig.
The pigs of the property will be the focus of this weekend’s special event, the vegan “Pig Toast” on Saturday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. After toasting the pigs with watermelon, visitors will enjoy a gourmet vegan barbecue prepared by Sanctuary chefs featuring carrot dogs and vegan hot dogs with a choice of creative toppings. Other options will include a barbecued jackfruit sandwich, slow-cooked baked beans, zesty lime slaw and kale and sundried tomato pasta salad. Top it off with watermelon and artisanal vegan gelato by Dair Me Not, which can be purchased to take home, too.
Kids will enjoy storytime, craftmaking and educational videos. Live music will be provided by Rachel Lynn and Nick Berry of Dots Will Echo, playing throughout the day.
Admission with advance purchase costs $22 for adults, $12 for ages five to 12 and is free for kids under age five. Tickets are available through EventBrite.com. Rain will cancel the event; refunds will be automatically issued to all ticketholders.
The Sanctuary also offers a summer day camp for kids, vegan cooking classes, speaking engagements by founder Kathy Stevens and education programs about farm animals and industrialized animal cruelty. Guests may also stay on-site in the circa-1800s “Homestead” farmhouse.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS) was established at 316 Old Stage Road in Saugerties in 2001. Since then, its staff and volunteers have rescued and provided a safe home for more than 4,000 animals, with about a quarter of them adopted out to new, loving families. Any animal deemed unsuitable for adoption due to advanced age, health, behavior or psychological issues is given loving lifelong care. The capacity of the rescue program was expanded in 2011 with the purchase of a nearby distressed farm, where they renovated two large barns and fenced in five pastures.
Animals arrive from situations of neglect, hoarding, abandonment or institutionalized exploitation. Each animal is provided with individualized care, including the choice of pasture-mates and whether or not to be part of the weekend tour experience. Some animals who are unable to thrive in a herd or flock environment are allowed to join the Sanctuary’s “Underfoot Family” and free-range all day.
One of the most recent success stories is that of Ashley, 35, an elderly, newly blind horse, and her son, Pliers, 33. In immediate danger of being put down, the horses were rescued by the Sanctuary in December, even though there was not enough pasture for them, and CAS was at full capacity after taking in more than 100 chickens, five sheep and four calves months earlier in the largest-ever animal-abuse case in the Northeast.
It was not an easy transition, as Pliers, a big gelding, would protectively charge anyone who approached his mother, and was therefore a danger to anybody around him. According to CAS spokesperson Meredith Liguori, because the mother-and-son duo had never been separated from each other, their goal at first was to get Pliers comfortable enough to be away from his mother, because they believed she was in such bad shape that she had literally just days left.
Six months later, with the loving care that they’re now receiving, the horses are beginning to relax. Pliers no longer feels the need to block anyone from approaching Ashley, and is interested in visitors and the other horses at the site. And Ashley has far exceeded the expectations of CAS staff, getting “stronger by the day,” Liguori says that Pliers, “who used to ward us away with extremely aggressive body language, now runs up to us for love and affection. These two have a happy ending that we never dreamed of happening when we took them in.”
Vegan Pig Toast, Saturday, July 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., $22/$12, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, 316 Old Stage Road, Saugerties; (201) 956-3081, http://casanctuary.org.