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New herd for Gentle Barn

Community: Animals from closed dairy farm were set to go to slaughter until a local rescued them

Posted: May 20, 2010 11:00 p.m.
Updated: May 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Elli Laks, of the Gentle Barn Foundation, feeds Lucy Goosie. Gentle Barn is rescuing 60 cows, many of which are sick or pregnant, from slaughter due to a dairy farm that closed. The organization is asking for donations to help build a barn for the rescued cows.

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The Gentle Barn Foundation is preparing to take possession of 60 cows — and it finds itself in need of a few more barns.
Details are still being worked out, but a dairy farm that’s shut down was preparing to slaughter its cows — most of which are pregnant — until the animal rescue service that also assists at-risk youth and children took action to save the cows, and in the process provide more animals for therapy.

But the 15 acres in Agua Dulce where the cows would be housed doesn’t have a barn for the animals and their young.

“This is cool because we can save their lives and give them the opportunity to raise their babies,” said Ellie Laks, who with husband Jay Weiner founded and operate Gentle Barn.

“It’ll be something the community can sink their teeth into — be part of their birth and their lives.”

The organization owns 16 acres of property off Sierra Highway in unincorporated Canyon Country, which has three existing barns, but the cows would go to another 15-acre parcel in Agua Dulce that’s barn-less.

Laks and Weiner are inviting the community to help them raise $100,000 for one barn. A private benefactor will match that amount for a second, Laks said.

The dairy owner is currently working to comply with health department and animal control codes before he can give the animals up to the Gentle Barn, Laks said.

Gentle Barn workers and volunteers are waiting on a phone call that could come at any moment, she said.

In its 11-year history, the Gentle Barn has rescued 120 farm animals from abuse and neglect. Barn staff members rehabilitate the animals with deep tissue massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, western medicine, herbs, nutritional supplements, quality feed and human comfort.

But rescuing animals is only part of what the foundation’s about. It hosts visits from at-risk youth, special-needs children and inner-city kids, as well as visits from schools around the Los Angeles area, Weiner said.

“After animals go through rehabilitation and healing, they then give back to the kids who come here for their rehabilitation,” he said.

The program also matches individual animals with individual people — the animals’ “special people,” Weiner said.

As Gentle Barn has expanded, support has poured in from around the world, due in large part social networking, he said.

Gentle Barn will be featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show next week, he said.

Laks said taking in 60 more cows will be a challenge, especially after their calves arrive.

“It’s going to be a continual effort to continue raising money for food and vet care,” she said. “We do have a lot of volunteers that are ready to go.”

If, for some reason, the Gentle Barn does not receive the cows, the barns built will be used to rescue other animals, Laks said.

The organization has an ongoing relationship with an auctioneer who gives up his downed animals.

“Worst-case scenario,” Laks said, “we’re still going to fill the barn with horses and cows (that would have gone) to slaughter.”

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