Tucked away in Mission, 70 kms from Vancouver, is an idyllic farm where over 100 animals happily live, some of them taking up rooms in the farmhouse itself.
All the animals have a story — many were seized by the SPCA because they were being treated cruelly, and some were abandoned because they became old, or injured.
At SAINTS Rescue, the Senior Animals In Need Today Society, the six staff and 40 volunteers care for the animals, some of which have illnesses like cancer that require daily medical attention, and others that have special physical or emotional needs.
"I didn't expect there were going to be that many senior and special needs animals," said Carol Hine, a nurse who founded SAINTS in 2004 and runs the non-profit in her off hours on her one-hectacre property.
"I really honestly thought that most people keep their seniors animals and take really good care of them. I had no conception that they were being dumped at the shelters or that people were hoarding them and not taking care of them."
Everything from cats to cows
Before Hine began SAINTS, she ran a cat shelter. During that time she started to come across abandoned animals and brought many of them to her own home.
"I'd have a sheep in my office," she said. "I had a house full of all these wrecked animals, and it just wasn't going that great."
"So I turned the cat shelter over to the board of directors, and I came out and I bought this place and decided right off the bat it was going to be multispecies."
SAINTS is now home to horses, cows, sheep, pigs, goats, cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, a donkey, a llama, a turtle and more, spread across a paddock, barn, a field, and the house (with some rooms taken up only by cats or dogs, and other rooms taken up by both).
There's Ginger, a pig who was abandoned when she outgrew her teacup size, Chevy the steer that was rescued from auction, and Carl the llama, who was found on a property three years after it was taken over by BC Hydro.
It's taken a lot of effort to help some of the animals.
One of those was Mystic, who arrived at SAINTS as a three-month old puppy diagnosed with bilateral renal dysplasia, a type of kidney disease.
"Dogs that have it usually die within the first year," said Hine, who added that each year Mystic would make it through.
"The problem now, was that for two and a half years nobody ever told her no, because we all thought she was dying. So she's eaten 10 leather couches, 17 channel changers, we've had to redo her room twice," Hine said.
"She's probably the happiest dog you'll meet in your life. So we've decided she's a permanent sanctuary dog since we totally ruined her, she can live on the farm and wreck whatever she wants."
Some animals can be adopted
Hine said they have about 25 adoptions each year, and an equal number that they put into permanent foster care, with SAINTS covering the animals' veterinarian bills for the rest of their lives.
"But some of them can't go, their medical needs are too great, or their behavioural needs are too great. And a few of them are just so settled and happy here that it's not fair to move them. "
She said they also don't let herd animals be adopted once they've bonded with the herd.
Responsibility for animals
Hine said that, as a nurse, she understands "that there are horrible things that go on in life," but said she wishes that people's attitudes towards animals will change.
"If you're going to get one, you're responsible for it for the rest of its life, and you're not just responsible for its body, you're responsible for its health and its happiness."
She said that, for example, many people don't realize the needs that rabbits have — which is why she won't adopt them out unless people are educated about them and are able to provide a better home than the farm.
"I call rabbits the silent screamers, they suffer more than any other domestic animal on the face of the earth, because they don't make a sound, and so people can ignore them, and they live in filthy cages, they live with no social interaction, they live in the cold, in the rain, it's terrible how people treat their rabbits."
Hine said that though the staff and volunteers take it hard when one of the farm's animals dies, she puts it in perspective.
"I love every single one of them, but I have a job to do and so my job is to make sure they're happy and they're comfortable, and when their time goes they have a peaceful and dignified death.
"If I met their care needs goals, if I did my job and I met what was supposed to happen for them, it's okay."
To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: S.A.I.N.T.S. farm in Mission provides a caring home to senior and special needs animals