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Precious Life Animal Sanctuary celebrates opening

Ralph Turner, Precious Life Animal Sanctuary founder, hugs a Holstein steer named Benjamin who was rescued from an auction as a calf by a woman in Oregon who was forced to find him a new home when he grew to be full-sized.

Ashley Oden

Staff writer

Pets are more than just animals, they are beings that deserve respect.

That's the motto at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary and for founder Ralph Turner personally.

Precious Life Animal Sanctuary is a work in progress that celebrated its grand public opening Sept. 16.

Turner and his wife Caryl started the 85-acre animal refuge in 1999 shortly after he retired from 30 years with Safeway and she retired from 40 years working with engineering companies in the Seattle area. They bought the land on Lost Mountain, moved and started the long process of clearing trees, building fences, renovating the barn and getting the farm ready to house animals.

"We've taken a different approach," Turner said. "We could have asked the public for money but we didn't want to. Now that we have animals we feel more comfortable doing that."

The sanctuary is up and running, taking in needy animals from all over the world and locally. Each animal is analyzed case by case to decide if Precious Life Animal Sanctuary is the best option.

Behind the scenes help

Kim Koon, farm vice president and most hardworking volunteer, shares Turner's dream for saving one mistreated animal at a time.

Koon met Turner at a pet grooming shop in Seattle. He shared his plans for a peninsula-based sanctuary and she simply kept asking him to be a part of it until he finally agreed. She moved to the area six months later without a second thought. That was nearly two years ago.

"I'm very lucky and grateful to be a part of this," she said. "The animal industry isn't about money, it's about a love for animals, and that's what I have."

Koon attended Central Washington University and has degrees in ethnology and zoology.

Bringing animals to the sanctuary is the best and worst part of the job, she said, acknowledging how the process has to be picky. "There are hundreds of thousands of animals that need care, and obviously we can't rescue them all."

Turner agrees and limits the number of animals that come to the farm to ensure quality of care over quantity. "This won't become a backyard zoo because I won't sacrifice the animals' care," he said. "It's better to do a really good job rescuing a few animals than to do a bad job rescuing a bunch."

People who don't have time to volunteer but still want to help can donate money, dog and cat food, cat litter, a television to keep some animals entertained, alfalfa, straw, hay, grain, bird seed and weed eaters, to name just a few "wish list" items.

Meet the animals

A handful of animals already call the farm home. Each animal is available for adoption but if they don't find new homes, they will live out their lives on the farm, Koon said. "They are safe here for life, so at least if we don't find them as good or better homes, they have a safe haven here with us."

Benjamin, a Holstein steer, is one of the larger pets. A woman in Oregon rescued Benjamin as a calf from an auction but was forced to find him a new home when he reached full-size. By word of mouth she got Turner's phone number.

"He's a great pet," Turner said, who swears farm animals sometimes make the best companions. "They are large and cannot fit into the house but they sure make unforgettable pets."

Turner once rescued a dairy calf named Buddy from being butchered at an auction. Buddy was part of Turner's inspiration for opening a sanctuary in the first place. "He was as lovable and affectionate as a dog, and I think about him every day."

Sally and Surprise are mustangs from Wyoming. Turner received a call from a man about Sally, who'd suffered head trauma and was going to be put to sleep, so Turner took her in. Little did he know she was pregnant and would give birth to Surprise just months later.

Sunny, a Great Pyrenees dog, was rescued from a bad situation right here in Clallam County. He was cooped up in a small pen with no shade, had matted hair, was dangerously underweight and still has scars from his jaw being wired shut to keep him from barking.

Other animals on the farm include dozens of feral cats, four burros from Montana and three Great Pyrenees dogs, one from New Mexico.

The sanctuary is a safe haven for wild animals too. A herd of 19 deer is regularly seen grazing in the field and a couple of elk have been spotted from time to time, Turner said.

What's in store

Now that Turner has achieved his dream of opening an animal sanctuary here, he is setting his goals even higher. He wants to continue taking in mistreated animals, find them the best homes possible or allow them to live out what's left of their life on the farm, educate the public about animal care and mistreatment through workshops and seminars and ultimately make a difference for animals in the future.

"We hope to someday have the strongest laws here in Washington against animal cruelty," Turner said. "If we can teach people compassion for animals, I know that will transcend into how they treat others and that will make the world a better place."

Saving lives

Precious Life Animal Sanctuary, an 85-acre nonprofit refuge for abused, neglected and abandoned animals, is located on Lost Mountain Road in Sequim. For more information, to make a donation, or become a volunteer call Ralph and Caryl Turner at 582-1437 or go online to www.preciouslifeanimalsanctuary.org .
 

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