Raising animal protection awareness is a concern ISF holds near and dear to its heart, and its spirited Youth Volunteers are no exception.

Members of the ISF Youth Team came together with local children and their families to lend a caring hand and learn what goes into the caretaking of rescued farm animals at Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, New York.

 Upon arriving to the 123-acre refuge, the group of 13 volunteers were greeted by Founder and Executive Director, Kathy Stevens, who invited her guests to sit and chat atop a grassy knoll overlooking the sanctuary. She explained that the sanctuary came into existence in 2001 because she believes animals have a right to live their lives free of suffering and exploitation. Stevens strives to teach those around her how important it is for humans to understand animal intelligence and emotions, and to view an animal as a someone—rather than an object.

Since its conception, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, with the help of its supporters, has rescued over 4,000 animals from a life of cruelty, neglect, and abandonment. Stevens also explained that she advocates for veganism and offers a culinary support program through her organization complete with cooking classes, recipes, and tips for a healthy Vegan lifestyle.

When it came time to set out and meet the animals residing at the sanctuary, it was hard to contain the excitement. Led by Education Coordinator, Kaden Maguire, the group was introduced to many of the over 300 rescued farm animals the facility currently cares after. These furry and feathered friends included Tucker the cow, Violet the goat, and a chicken named RJ—all who spoke with eyes louder than words ever could.

Youth cuddling Tucker the cow

Along the way, youth learned interesting and not so favorable facts about each species. For instance, chickens have a vocabulary of over three-hundred words and communicate with each other by forming a series of sentences. Maguire also explained that hens naturally lay approximately 20 eggs per year, however industrial farmed hens used for egg production lay over 275 eggs annually to meet consumer demand. It’s a process that takes a devastating toll on the species.

The final star of the day introduced was Bruce, a slaughterhouse duck who’d been cruelly debeaked. He escaped from a live market in Brooklyn and was found strolling throughout the streets of New York City. Luckily, he was scooped up by caring hands, and with the help of a local rescuer, found his way to Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Today, Bruce has a life of freedom in the outdoors where he enjoys fun in the sun and lounging in the laps of his human friends!

Each animal had a story to tell their new friends that day. As each child walked away from a habitat, conversations were quickly sparking how they too can be an advocate for our planet’s creatures, giving them the happy ending each so deserves.

During their visit, youth had the opportunity to brainstorm with ISF Youth Director, Jules Trace, ways they can use their passions to come together and positively impact our environment. Advocating litterless lunches, instituting school recycling programs, and preserving our wildlife were the hot topics of conversation. “It’s important to help animals in need because sometimes animals can’t survive on their own,” explains ISF Youth Volunteer, Logan. “This is why organizations like Catskill Animal Sanctuary and ISF are important. They’re drawing attention to animals who can't speak for themselves.” Fostering compassion and respect for all living creatures and our environment was a concern voiced by all that came through loud and clear.

Volunteers concluded their visit at the refuge by doing what they do best—giving back! Together, they cleared away brush within the sanctuary, painted a fence and chicken coop that needed sprucing up, and cleaned animal habitats for their new animal friends to enjoy.

Volunteering at catskill

The day was about youth inspiring youth. It was about coming together in meaningful ways to share hopes, ideas, and dreams for a brighter, greener future. It was about igniting social change.

The ISF Youth Team sends a heartfelt thank you to Catskill Animal Sanctuary for making this awe-inspiring Youth Day possible. Hoof, web, foot, and paw prints have forever been stamped upon gentle hearts.


Wendi Fournier, ISF Public Relations Volunteer

Edited by Heidi Trace

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