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Vegan principles guide animal rehabilitation

With video: Being opposed to the use of animals for food, the Nicholsons raise the animals that come to them as pets.
Diane Nicholson receives a kiss from Forrest Gump the calf at Twin Heart Animal Sanctuary on Aug. 28

Diane and Harry Nicholson hadn’t planned on opening an animal sanctuary when they moved to their property in Tappen less than a year ago. After the property’s previous owner left behind an elderly mare and two hinnies, the stage was set for the Nicholsons to open Twin Heart Animal Sanctuary.

Currently the sanctuary is home to the two hinnies, which are the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey, two cows, a mare, three goats, a lamb, a dog and a turkey.

The same love of animals that motivated the Nicholsons to open the sanctuary is what drove them to move to Tappen from their home in Armstrong; The animal agriculture in the area troubled the long-time vegans.

Being opposed to the use of animals for food, the Nicholsons raise the animals that come to them as pets rather than livestock, bottle-feeding them and in some cases keeping them in their house when they are young.

“By nurturing them we stretch their brains and get the intelligence they are capable of,” Diane said.

Several of the animals that came to the sanctuary had severe health problems, which probably would have resulted in them being euthanized had they been on an ordinary farm.

Forrest Gump, a young calf, had some of the most serious health issues, contracted tendons in his legs left him virtually immobile, hobbling around on his knees with his legs twisted up beneath him. Diane explained how they gently forced Forrest’s legs straight as they fed him his bottles each day and gradually began seeing results. Now Forrest happily trots around his pen on all four legs when he isn’t trying to lick or nibble on whoever comes near the edge of the fence.

Yoda, one of the sanctuary’s goats, also came with severe health problems. The farmer who sold Yoda to the Nicholsons assumed he was born blind, when in fact he had entropium, a birth defect which causes the animal’s eyelids to be inverted. As a result of the inverted eyelids Yoda’s eyelashes were badly scratching his eyes. Diane estimated that if they had not gotten a vet to fix his eyes with a surgery Yoda would have been permanently blinded within a day and dead of infection soon after that.

“Vets don’t know what to do with us,” Diane said adding that vets are surprised at the lengths they go to for their animals when most farmers would simply euthanize them.

“Basically these guys are ambassadors to show people that they are no different than your dogs and cats,” Diane said.

The Nicholsons want to expand the sanctuary soon, hoping to welcome pigs by the end of the year, but they need to improve their fencing first.

Diane said they hope to raise approximately $12,000 to cover the cost of new fencing through donations from the public and t-shirts which will be on sale soon. The sanctuary is open to visitors by appointment by calling 250-308-5357 or through their Facebook page.


Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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