When the landlord found Marty in the wire cage, the young gray pit bull was starving to death, the outline of his bones showing against thinned fur. After being immobilized in a tight, cramped space for most of his young life, his body was marked with open lesions, due to unrelieved pressure. Marty was one of three dogs left to die in cages by the previous tenants in a filthy, abandoned house.
Regional Animal Services of King County brought Marty and the two other dogs to the county shelter. He began to heal physically. But Marty’s emotional wounds would take longer to resolve.
As a dog who loved humans, the original neglect and abandonment was severely traumatic for Marty. Marty panicked and hurt himself whenever caregivers left the room, due to severe separation anxiety. He frantically gulped food — typical in starved animals — which led to vomiting. The two other rescued dogs found new homes, but Marty’s fearfulness and separation anxiety meant euthanasia was his probable fate.
Marty’s last hope was found in the Cascade Mountain foothills outside Seattle, at a nonprofit animal sanctuary called Pasado’s Safe Haven.
Located in Sultan, Washington, Pasado’s Safe Haven is the only Pacific Northwest animal sanctuary rescuing all types of animals. The shelter also performs animal cruelty investigations, operates a spay/neuter and pet food program and provides education and advocacy.
Rescued animals come from law enforcement seizures, factory farms, slaughterhouse “dead piles,” and houses where animals were hoarded. Often, animals were kept in horrific conditions and are found infected, covered in waste, and need immediate medical attention. The organization’s name comes from beloved Eastside petting-zoo donkey Pasado, abused and murdered by three young men in 1992.
Last year, Regional Animal Services of King County took 3,999 animals into custody. Intake includes stray animals, owner confiscation and surrenders, euthanasia requests, transfers from other agencies and wildlife.
Of these, 662 animals were transferred to other animal welfare organizations or agencies such as Pasado’s Safe Haven. Around 369 animals were euthanized in 2020, mostly due to poor health prognosis and suffering, while others were euthanized at the owner’s request, due to vicious temperament or unsocialized behavior.
Cared-for creatures at Pasado’s Save Haven include domesticated animals (dogs, cats, chickens); the less-expected: ducks, turkeys, pigs; and even grazing animals — goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, alpacas and more. The animals are given as much time as they need to heal physically and emotionally, while loved unconditionally, until finding adoptive “forever homes.”
This type of care is lengthy and expensive. The average cost of sanctuary care for a dog or cat is thousands of dollars per animal, and more for larger, grazing animals.
Donors make this care possible, along with fees associated with on-site, in-person tours.
At the sanctuary, a certified animal behaviorist taught Marty to self-soothe anxiety in a dog bed with favorite toys, when caregivers left the room. First 30 seconds, then a minute, then a few minutes more — each time, earning a reward when he calmly waited for his caregivers’ return. Soon, he was able to remain in his bed for long periods without panicking.
After two long years of specialized trauma work, Marty was recently adopted by a loving family who coordinates with the behaviorist to resolve issues. For example, new food bowls help Marty to eat more slowly and avoid feeling ill.
“Marty is the kind of dog that many shelters just can’t take on, because getting them to the point where they are adoptable takes a very long time, and sometimes never happens,” says Laura Henderson, executive director of Pasado’s Safe Haven. “Our mission is to rescue and rehabilitate animals that have nowhere else to go. Our caretakers are uniquely qualified to help animals who need little extra time to heal, both physically and emotionally,” Henderson says.
This coming year, Pasado’s Safe Haven plans to expand their scope to encourage people to contemplate relationships with animals beyond family pets and political advocacy work to protect the rights of all animals. For example, encouraging consideration of the links between factory-farm animals and public health, and negative impacts on the planet. After a break due to the pandemic, small public tours of the sanctuary are starting up again, with COVID-19 precautions in place. Visitors can meet and greet Pasado’s animal residents once more, seeing firsthand the transformations brought about by love, care and time.
Pasado’s Safe Haven has a comprehensive approach to fighting animal cruelty. In addition to investigating crimes against animals and providing sanctuary to those rescued, they advocate for better laws to protect animals and educate the public about how they can help.