New Mexico's Pet Resource EDITORS' PICKS



By Joanne Harroun


The founder of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary (SHAS), Juanita Fisher, had a vision, which in turn became her “mission in life” to help the animals that cannot help themselves, to love and protect them and give them a Safe Haven to call “home.” Joining her in this passionate commitment are animal lovers throughout the Deming area.

Safe Haven's goals are to promote low cost spay/neuter programs, education on pet care and responsibility, loving adoption through the sanctuary, special Senior Citizen/companion pet programs and a nurturing refuge where abused, ill, abandoned or orphaned animals can learn to trust again. Their goal is to find good homes for all adoptable animals. Those that are not adopted will live out their lives at Safe Haven with dignity, respect and love with no clock ticking toward an early, senseless death. Euthanasia will be the loving “last” resort to end severe pain, when there is no hope for recovery.

Safe Haven was established in 1996. A generous benefactor donated over 100 acres of land in Luna County near Deming and fund raising efforts have been ongoing to raise the necessary $450,000 to build on the site. When the sanctuary is built, SHAS will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 animals. There will be facilities for 750 dogs, 700 cats, horses, ducks, rabbits and birds. The sanctuary will also have a visitor center, petting zoo, a pet cemetery, and plans for a veterinarian clinic on site are being researched.

SHAS received a $10,000 grant from International Fund for Animal Welfare, enabling the organization to grade a road to the sanctuary land in Deming and to produce an educational video stressing the importance of spaying and neutering animals. The film was photographed and produced by Blair White and narrated by actor Mike Farrell, who played B. J. Hunnicutt from the hit series MASH. The video incorporated the efforts of the Las Cruces Humane Society, Animal Control and the veterinarians from the Jornada Animal Clinic who care for the needs of the SHAS animals. Shown at local elementary schools, the video teaches young children the proper care for animals and stresses how abuse of animals should not be tolerated.

A small sanctuary currently exists in Las Cruces, providing home for approximately 45 animals. During the last three years that SHAS has been in operation, over 400 animals have been rescued and placed in caring homes. Each of these animals received shots and vaccinations and was spayed or neutered before going to their new owners. SHAS's Las Cruces site provides shelter and medical care in extreme emergency situations. Recently they rescued a pit bull that was being used as “bait” in dog fights. Unfortunately, the facility is small and filled to capacity and is not able to take in any additional animals at this time.

The Board of Directors and volunteers consist of a varied group of people all working to prevent suffering and abuse of precious animal lives. Safe Haven is a not-for-profit, tax deductible organization dependent on the generosity of animal lovers. Local fund raisers are also a large part of the volunteer efforts to keep SHAS up and running. Rummage sales, walk-a-thons, dog washing, and an auction have provided necessary funds for the day by day operating expenses and a savings account for the building fund for the sanctuary. They have an office and gift/thrift shop stocked with items donated by animal lovers from the community; new and gently used items for resale are always welcome. Proceeds from all sales are used for the care of the animals and office expenses.

Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary continues to work on grants that will enable them to build the sanctuary in Luna County. Unfortunately, the process is slow, but they will continue to work together to make this dream a reality. According to one of the volunteers, when they get discouraged they refer to the picture of some of the animals on their pamphlets and read the following script: “Won't you please help us? Blind, handicapped, young or old, this is our refuge! A special place of caring and love for the lost and unwanted, the abused and alone. Each and every one is in need of YOUR support to maintain our Safe Haven”.

Although Juanita Fisher, the founder, has moved to Atlanta, Georgia to be near her family, the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary Board of Directors and all the volunteers continue on a daily basis to keep her dream alive.

The office and thrift shop are located at 525 East Madrid, Suite 3-A, Las Cruces, NM (505) 527-4544.

Joanne Harroun is Secretary of the Board of Directors of Safe Haven.

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 1999 issue.

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