"You Can’t Be Depressed Here" - Farm Animals Get A Second Chance At Life Thanks To GoFundMe 'Hero'
Inspired by his late mother, the founder wanted to give abused animals a place to live in peace – and you can help continue his mission!
About 40 miles north of Fort Myers, FL sits a sprawling, 30-acre oasis, where donkeys and goats live like kings and pot-bellied pigs enjoy lazy days filled with sunshine, belly rubs and lounging in kiddie pools.
The Little Bear Sanctuary is a slice of heaven for farm animals that have been abused or saved from slaughter. The sanctuary's founder, Christopher Vane, was inspired to build the safe haven by his mother, Ursula, who used to say: "When I die, I'm going to have a barn up in heaven and I'm going to have all the animals and they're going to stay with me."
Vane was inspired to open the sanctuary by his late mother, who passed away in 2016.Little Bear Sanctuary/Facebook
Sadly, Ursula passed away just months before Vane opened the sanctuary, but her spirit lives on in the name. (Ursula means "little bear" in Latin.)
"She was my biggest supporter," Vane, 58, told TODAY about his mom. "She taught me compassion. She always loved animals. I know she's looking down on us."
Vane has rescued over 150 animals since the sanctuary opened in 2017. Little Bear Sanctuary/Facebook
Little Bear opened its doors in 2017 and like Noah with the ark, the animals came in by the dozens (though, not always in pairs). So far, Vane and his team have rescued over 150 animals and the shelter currently houses 74 pigs and 29 sheep, cows, chickens, goats and a 15-year-old tortoise named Keisha.
Since LBS is a no-kill, no-cage facility, the animals can live out their days in peace. A lot of the animals that live on the sanctuary were surrendered by animal hoarders who don't have the housing or resources to care for them. Others give up animals they buy as pets when they find they can't take care of them.
The sanctuary is home to a pair of donkeys named Zeke (L) and Jeremiah (R). Little Bear Sanctuary/Facebook
Pig breeders are some of the biggest culprits. The breeders intentionally malnourish the animals to market them as "miniature." Then, when the pig keeps growing, or develops other health problems as a result of improper breeding, the owners want to get rid of them.
"We actually had to stop taking people's pet pigs because I think it's become a crisis," Vane said.
Pigs are often malnourished by breeders who want to sell them as "miniature" pets.Little Bear Sanctuary/Facebook
Vane runs the sanctuary with his husband, Randy Sellers, who he says has been "a great support." LBS has been recognized as a "true sanctuary" by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries due to its high standards and sustainable business practices.
Chris Vane (L) and his husband Randy Sellers (R) run Little Bear Sanctuary together. Little Bear Sanctuary/Facebook
Vane and Sellers have big plans to expand the sanctuary so they can offer additional services on the property and care for even more animals. Vane was recently named as the GoFundMe hero for August after starting a fundraiser on the site.
"I've always had a connection with all kinds of animals," Vane said in a video put together by GoFundMe. They're emotional, intelligent beings. My ultimate goal here is to give them the best care that I could possibly give them, and fundraising is one of the most important aspects of the job."
We think what Vane and Sellers are doing with Little Bear Sanctuary is nothing short of amazing. Hopefully, they'll get the funding they need to give even more farm animals a safe and loving "forever" home.