LINDSTROM, Minn. (WCCO) — In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Lindstrom to show us how abused and neglected animals are getting a new lease on life.

“Usually I come in, feed all the animals, clean up, it takes a few hours. Just get everyone ready for the day,” said volunteer Larissa Thompson.

It’s a daily routine inside this barn. But despite the usual chores, what’s happening here is far from ordinary.

There are 14 animals living at Farmaste Animal Sanctuary: four cows, three goats, three sheep and three pigs.

And each of them has a story. One of neglect or abuse. But thanks to Kelly Tope, they’re getting a second chance.

“I was always the one rescuing animals. So I’d be late to dinner off rescuing animals somewhere,” Tope said.

So when she got the idea to open an animal sanctuary, it was only a matter of “when” not “if.”

“Started doing a lot of research and went out to New York and visited the farm sanctuary there. Which was the one that really started everything,” Tope said.

Thanks to a land donation by a Chisago County couple, and with the help of eager volunteers, Farmaste got its hooves on the ground in April. With 80 acres, they could someday have as many as 100 animals living here.

“We get about four to five calls a week, or emails, asking us to take animals,” Tope said.

That includes dairy goats, like Christine and Clarice.

“They unfortunately aged-out and she was looking to downsize her herd. So she called and was looking for a rescue for them. They have disease that causes arthritis,” Tope said.

Owners have to agree to surrender the animals before Tope will take them. But there are cases where a lack of care by a previous owner leads to a dire situation.

“Timothy, unfortunately, had pink eye that went untreated. And because of that his eyes ruptured so they needed to be removed,” Tope said.

Surgery was performed at the U of M, and soon after the little calf turned into an Internet sensation. Tope posted Facebook updates on his recovery. And each day, Timothy gets a little more comfortable.

“He will get really playful. He’ll get up and kick up his hooves. He will definitely have a friend who will become, almost his seeing-eye animal. So they will be able to guide him around the enclosure up top,” Tope said.

Most of the care and feed these animals receive comes out of Tope’s own pocket. But she’s not as interested in making a living as she is making a life for animals that never really had one. And they aren’t the only ones that benefit. Thompson is a volunteer who is hoping to become a veterinarian.

“Through volunteering here, I’m able to gain more exposure to large animals. I’m comfortable around them which is nice because that’s something I want to do later on,” Thompson said.

Tope hopes her animals can also help people dealing with mental health issues. A place where creatures of all shapes and sizes can heal together.

“My daughter deals pretty heavily with depression and anxiety,” Tope said. “The animals are healing. People are healing. And it’s been such a life saver for my daughter to just come out here and be with the animals and help raise them. And get a chance to make that connection with them. Animals are nonjudgmental. They love being with you. That’s such a wonderful place for kids or anyone dealing with that in their life to come into.”

The Inver Grove Heights goat that was on the loose a couple weeks ago, will also be moving to Farmaste.

For more information on events and donating to the sanctuary, click here. You can also donate by calling 651-409-1309.

John Lauritsen