The Hogar Animal Sanctuary is the only sanctuary in Spain that rescues fish. In November 2020 they host 60 fish. “A fish does not eat the same as a cow, nor does it have the same vet, nor does it have the same space. Each space needs a series of specific cares so that they can live happily. In the case of fish, you have to know from what the water has to be like, what they have to eat and also that it is vegan food that is the most difficult to find, what plants they have to eat because some are poisonous, what temperature it has than having water, knowing how long they live, what diseases they have… It takes a lot of time and money and is not always easy. ” Elena Tova, founder of El Hogar Animal.
“In this story for Nat Geo, photographer Ana Palacios not only had to overcome the distance of a reader from Spain, but she had to transcend perhaps a touch of skepticism: Would a reader care about a grassroots movement of people rescuing injured farm animals from slaughter—and in one case, the dumpster—to take them to places where the animals could live out their days with love?”
Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences.
Animal sanctuaries are havens in the countryside inhabited by vegan activists who are devoted, body and soul, to rescuing animals who have been abused or abandoned.
The activists remove these creatures from the supply chain and take them to large estates in the mountains where they heal and protect them, providing them with a safe place to live and a lifetime of care and attention until they die natural death.
Carla Heras is taking Laiteana out of the little wooden stand where most of the gooses and ducks sleep every night at Gaia. All the birds are taken out one by one for a better performance on the deworming. At Gaia, every four months, the sanctuary’s staff deworms all the birds at the sanctuary (ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys). To do so, the staff treat each bird individually, applying a spray under each wing to free the birds of fleas, lice, etc., and giving each bird a few drops of syrup (Fembendazole), depending on the animal’s weight, to get rid of internal parasites. Veterinary protocols and routines are meticulously observed at the sanctuary.
Paola was abandoned outside a farm when the rest of the pigs were taken to the slaughterhouse. She had a broken vertebra and was unable to move her hind limbs, so it was impossible to get her in the truck. The staff at Gaia sanctuary rescued Paola and took care of her. It took a huge effort and extensive treatment, but now that her vertebra has healed, Paola is starting to regain mobility. Every day, Olivia Gomez, a worker at the sanctuary, treats Paola with physiotherapy and electrotherapy. And although progress is slow, Paola can now stand up with help and even take a few tiny steps.
“I got the deer tattoo because I love deer. In this case, this tattoo doesn’t symbolize anything in particular. It was an aesthetic decision, and I really love it.” Coque Fernandez Abellá, veterinarian and co-founder of the Gaia sanctuary.
Salomé arrived at Gaia in mid-September. She is a kid goat who was found on a road near Manresa, lost, dehydrated, limping, plagued with lice, and very scared. The folks from the sanctuary rescued her, took X-rays of her leg, and detected a fissure in her tibia. They bandaged her leg to immobilize it and gave Salomé a prophylactic treatment to deworm her.
Victoria Celedón, long-term volunteer at El Hogar Animal sanctuary states: “We are all a ‘family’ here. With family, you don’t get to choose; you get along better with some members than with others. But sharing the vegan philosophy is a very strong point we all have in common. Living together is sometimes easy, sometimes more complicated, never difficult or bad. We are always surrounded by good people who want to help and are very compassionate, empathetic, and aware… but nobody is perfect. Not even me. It’s nice to share this philosophy of life with others and feel that I am being helpful. Being here makes me happy.”
Flavia broke her jaw at Gaia when she got caught in a tree while eating. She has to wear a bandage that almost completely immobilizes her mouth. Now, she is kept apart from the other goats and sheep to protect her from getting
Every morning, Elena Tova, founder of El Hogar Animal sanctuary, gives treats to Sia (deaf), Soul, Woody (three legs), Neo and Gretel (both physically impaired), as a reward for good behavior and refraining from barking for no reason. These 6 dogs were rescued and some of them have serious physical conditions that need special care. They receive constant love and attention from workers and volunteers that check and follow up on them several times a day.
Veterinarian Irati Aldanondo performs a routine checkup on Juana together with Coque, the co-founder of Gaia and Olivia a worker at Gaia. Juana is a goat that arrived at the Sanctuary with posterior paralysis. A neurological checkup and CT scan revealed that Juana had a mass on one of her vertebrae that was compressing her spinal canal. Last August, she had surgery to have the mass removed and decompress the spinal cord. The mass turned out to be an abscess and was almost completely removed. Now it’s just a question of seeing how Juana evolves and whether she will regain some mobility. The prognosis isn’t very good, but the founders of this sanctuary fight for the defend health of its non-human inhabitants as if their own health were at stake.
Salomé arrived in 2020, a baby goat found on a road near Manresa, lost, dehydrated, limping, with lice and scared. She was rescued, her leg was x-rayed and a crack in her tibia was detected. They placed an immobilizing bandage and all the prophylactic treatment for deworming.
Gary is a ram of the Awasi breed, who arrived to the sanctuary being just a baby around 8 years ago. He was born on a farm specializing in sheep farming. He physically impaired, is massaged twice a day on his spine to stimulate the neurological system. They named him Gary, after Gary Yourofsky, in honor of the animal rights activist.
“Becoming a volunteer here is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and it has helped me grow more than anything. Getting to know all these animals up close has generated a very special bond with them, and this has helped me develop a sort of sensitivity and sense of compassion that I did not have before. Even also towards people, it’s helped me gain understanding about other members of my own species, and this has also made me happy.” Carla Heras, teacher and occasional volunteer at the Gaia sanctuary.
Elur is a 32 year old horse. They rescued him in a slaughterhouse where they gave very little money to their salesman because he was starving and old. He has very few teeth, he cannot chew and that is why he eats his special soft food separately from the rest, where he gets his daily medication, so that he can swallow and digest it without chewing too much.
Borges was born blind and rejected by his mother, so we had to raise him on bottles. But he is growing up healthy and happy. Despite his blindness, Borges leads a completely normal life: playing, jumping, running, and checking out everything he finds. He has adapted well to his space. Lía Dominguez, a Gaia sanctuary employee, is in charge of providing specialized treatment in an area dedicated to the more vulnerable animals on the property.
El Hogar Animal sanctuary, Matilde Duch, a veterinarian who specializes in equine dentistry, gives checkups to the three ponies, two donkeys, and three horses living. Matilde visits riding schools, farms, etc. in a van loaded with all her equipment.She cleaned the animals’ mouths and shaved Rubén’s––the donkey pictured here––teeth to correct his overbite so that he can eat properly. The visit costs 1,000€, which is in addition to the sanctuary’s regular monthly expenses (15,000€).
Every four months, the sanctuary’s staff deworms all the birds at the sanctuary (ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys). To do so, the staff treat each bird individually, applying a spray under each wing to free the birds of fleas, lice, etc., and giving each bird a few drops of syrup (Fembendazole), depending on the animal’s weight, to get rid of internal parasites. Veterinary protocols and routines are meticulously observed at Gaia.
Daga and Itak are Gaia sanctuary’s oldest inhabitants. These two horses, a mother and son, were already on the estate before Gaia acquired and rented the thirty-three acres to set up the sanctuary near Camprodón, in Girona. The horses had both been used for riding, and the sanctuary decided to keep them. They now live free in the forest inside the sanctuary, in an area somewhat far removed from the other animals. But they will soon begin a period of adaptation to help them get used to living with the other animals.
Gemma Roig, a volunteer at El Hogar Animal, feeds twice a day the three ponies, two donkeys, and three horses living at the sanctuary. The horses area, where they live freely in the wild, is 15 minute walk from the main house, volunteers have to walk there, fill the nets with the horses food and walk up hill another 10 minutes to hang the nets on different trees around the area so they do not fight for food.
Elena Tova, founder of El Hogar Animal sanctuary releases Romeo, a dove, in a safe area for her better recovery. She was attacked by another bird and caused severe damage on her head. The sanctuary has 40 pigeons as of January 2022.
The Hogar Animal sanctuary gives each animal a daily checkup. Sheep often have problems with their legs that require treatment. In this case, Cristina and Elena are treating Franci’s hoof infection.
Margarita (left) is a symbol of the history of the Hogar Animal sanctuary. She is a bullfighting cow whose owner failed to identify her as a “livestock animal” as required by law and was therefore obliged to send her to the slaughterhouse. The case file literally said: “Destroy the animal.” Margarita’s case became a viral phenomenon on social networks; with thousands of signatures gathered, public rallies, and tremendous social pressure to save her.Ultimately, activists managed to save Margarita’s life, and today she lives free with her friend Ruby (right). They’re the only two cows at the sanctuary to date.
Tecla was rescued together with her five-day-old baby Armonía with the aim of respecting their bond, ensuring they could continue to breastfeed, and sparing them both the anguish of separation. Tecla had also given birth to two other lambs who were still born.
If you have made it this far and you enjoyed it, you should know there is an exhibition available of this project.
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