In just one weekend, Dan McKernan organized and started up a non-profit that would change and save animal lives. In 2013, McKernan got a call from his dad who asked him if he wanted to take on the responsibility of owning their family-owned 70-acre farm in Chelsea, Michigan.
“The stars aligned, something clicked in my head, and then my dad reached out,” said McKernan.
After that conversation with his father, McKernan quit his day job as a marketing technician in Austin, Texas, and moved back to the family farm in Michigan to start up the Barn Sanctuary.
Since then, McKernan and his team have recuperated animals that now live on the farm, including cows, sheep, pigs, goats, turkeys, chickens, cats and donkeys. All the animals were saved from abusive situations, natural disasters or abandonment. The animals receive around-the-clock veterinary care, ample food and water, playtime with other animals and the workers and acres to roam in.
Last semester, Royal Oak, Michigan, junior Kate Mullins interned at the Barn Sanctuary with McKernan and his team. Mullins aspires to be a veterinarian and is currently in the pre-vet program at Albion.
While at the sanctuary, she spent her time completing barn chores and learning about the medical side of rescuing abused animals. Mullins grew close to both the humans and the animals on the farm, and her time at the sanctuary refueled her desire to save and care for animals.
“Despite our society’s treatment of non-pet animals, each animal on the farm has shown their sentience and love of life, and they deserve to be respected,” said Mullins.
The work that the team does at Barn Sanctuary is not cheap. Over $100,000 is put into Barn Sanctuary every year, not including emergency veterinary visits. These bills are paid partially through governmental grants. Donations help fund the rest of the bills that aren’t covered and help the animals live happily and healthily. Barn Sanctuary offers sponsorships, which can be found at www.barnsanctuary.com.
These are some of the friendly, furry faces of the Barn Sanctuary and their stories.
Chevy the goat has been at Barn Sanctuary since 2017. He came to the sanctuary with four other goats and sheep who were all rescued from the back of a tightly packed trailer that was involved in a high-speed police chase. The workers at the sanctuary were able to save five of the animals in the trailer, but four others were killed. Many others were injured and could not be taken in. The drivers were caught and faced numerous charges, including animal cruelty. Chevy and his friends all live peacefully and happily at the sanctuary today.
Dwight is a young calf with a fancy new leg. He was attacked by a coyote in a pasture when he was even younger. Recently, Dwight had reconstructive leg surgery and is now using a prosthetic leg, made by MSU’s vet team. He is recovering nicely at the sanctuary.
Twitch the goat lives at Barn Sanctuary with his sister, Portia. When Twitch was first born, he lay face-down and unresponsive in the hay. His owners didn’t think he was going to make it. He and Portia were surrendered to the sanctuary and are now happy as can be, munching on grass and hopping around the farm.
Ruth the sheep joined the Barn Sanctuary family in 2017 with Chevy (pictured above) and four other goats and sheep. Ruth was also in the high-speed chase that Chevy was involved in and was rescued from a tightly packed trailer. Now Ruth spends her time with her sheep friend, Rose, who was also rescued from the trailer. She also enjoys grazing in the pastures.
Pictured are two of the five donkeys that make up the famous Barn Sanctuary Donkey Family. The lighter colored one to the left is Axle, the youngest and only male donkey, and the donkey to the right is Mary-Pete. These five donkeys were brought to Barn Sanctuary when their owners could no longer care for them and their family members. They were all brought together to the sanctuary so that they wouldn’t have to be separated, and they now enjoy braying and playing with each other every day.
Photos by Gabby Henriksen.