- Catskill Animal Sanctuary
"We love having kids visit us,” says Veronica Finnegan, communications director of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, when informed of the refuge’s selection as Chronogram readers’ preferred kids’ attraction. “The sanctuary is popular with kids because they get to be around animals (of course!) but they also get to learn a new perspective about how every species needs to share the world. Children’s capacity for empathy is so great and they can form profound connections with the animals they meet.” (Catskill Animal Sanctuary also won top honors in the Activism/Advocacy Organization category and second place in the B&B category for its onsite accommodation, the Homestead.)
Founded in 2001 by teacher and animal rights activist Kathy Stevens, the sanctuary is a 150-acre haven in Saugerties for dozens of animals (11 different species), all of them saved from lives of neglect, cruelty, and abandonment. The facility has saved more than 5,000 animals to date through direct rescue. Visitors of all ages are able to meet and interact with the pigs, goats, cows, horses, lambs, donkeys, turkeys, chickens, and other creatures who’ve found a happy home at the sanctuary. Since May, however, the site has been closed to the public until state-sanctioned reopenings permit.
“We were just starting to launch our Virtual Sanctuary program when COVID-19 began to impact the United States,” Finnegan says. “The program (which broadcasts on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm EST) began as an offshoot from our youth programs. We had been offering ‘digital field trips’ to school groups that had financial or geographic obstacles to making a trip to see us. We’ve also started hosting free online vegan cooking classes on Instagram Live.”
Indeed, promoting a vegan diet is central to the CSA’s mission—and it’s taking root, thanks to its team’s efforts. “Based on our surveys, over 93 percent of visitors tell us that they plan to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products,” according to Finnegan. “Seeing animals as individuals, as beings who want their lives as much as we do, that goes a long way towards helping people make that connection. Kids are ready to see animals as friends, instead of food. Becoming vegan, at any age, is one of the most effective ways to dramatically curb our emissions and safeguard the planet for the future, on behalf of all children.”
While the sanctuary anticipates its physical reopening, its crew continues to care for their furry and feathered family. “I have a soft spot for Leah and Tigger, two of our sweet sanctuary goats,” says Finnegan. “If you’re ever sad, giving Tigger or Leah a hug can turn your whole entire day around.”