This Woman’s Animal Sanctuary Has Rescued Over 300 Animals

AnnMarie refuses to raise money by opening the sanctuary to public tours. Her animals, she says, “have gone through so much. I don’t want to scare them.”

May-2017-Heroes-Animal-sanctuary-Bob-Croslin-for-reader's-digestBob Croslin for Reader's Digest

Remember the TV show Green Acres? This story is a little like that, only with more animals and an even better ending.

“My wife of 24 years, AnnMarie Roberts, was raised in New York City, worked in the fashion industry, and never got her hands dirty,” wrote Keith Roberts in the magazine Country Woman. “Then, nine years ago, I wanted to move home to Florida and reconnect to my country roots, but how would I inspire the same feeling in, well, a city woman? I brought her a two-month-old potbellied pig.”

AnnMarie, then 46, was smitten. Soon she took in another potbellied pig that had been abandoned. And thus began Sugarloaf Mountain Ranch, her animal sanctuary in central Florida. With the couple’s two children grown up, these creatures would now be AnnMarie’s babies. (Don’t miss these heartwarming stories of animal heroes.)

The ranch now has 300 rescues, from alpacas to donkeys, each with its own story. “A gentleman had a litter of eight pigs, and all but one died,” says AnnMarie. “She weighed one pound and suffered seizures. For three weeks straight, I fed that baby every hour, day and night, barely sleeping. Now she’s fine. Another time, we rescued two roosters that had been shot—one has brain injuries. Many vets tell me, ‘Euthanize them—it’s too much work.’ I say if they can live, then I’m going to help them live.”

AnnMarie gets five to ten requests a day to save animals and has to turn most down. “If she can’t rescue the animal, she works with that person to find a solution,” Keith says. “She’s not only saving animals; she’s giving their owners peace of mind.”

“A woman called from her hospice bed,” AnnMarie recalls. “Her pigs would be euthanized if she couldn’t find a suitable home. ‘I only have a few months, and I need to know that they’ll be safe,’ she said.” So Ann­Marie drove three hours and got them.

Soon after, AnnMarie received a note from the woman’s daughter. “Dear AnnMarie,” she wrote. “My mom went peacefully, and I owe part of that to you. She agonized over Bailey and Smitten, but she went knowing that they are forever loved. Thank you for being Mom’s angel.”

Keith’s income from his job in IT supports the farm, along with some donations. But AnnMarie is the main asset. “She is a ball of energy,” Keith wrote. “A few times she’s gone so fast, she’s found herself in a tricky situation, like when she locked herself in the chicken pen. I found her sitting in the coop with ten chicks nestled in her lap.” Which is exactly what you’d expect from a true mother hen.

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.