WANTAGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – All animals need a home.
Even livestock escaping the slaughterhouse have found a new lease on life.
One man has turned a farm into a sanctuary. He’s the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
For all New York City provides for us, an hour northwest you’ll find a sanctuary that caters to animals.
Mike Stura isn’t a farmer. He’s a truck driver who defends the defenseless.
“I love them. I love them. My whole life has changed because of them. I see everything in my world differently because of them,” Stura told Overmyer.
Five years ago, he opened the Skylands Animal Sanctuary in Wantage, N.J.
“They’re not my pets. They’re not here to make me happy. They’re here to live life on their own terms. So that’s what we try to let them do,” Stura said.
Along with a small staff and volunteers, the 230-acre farm has changed the course of life for more than 100 animals. Some are even “celebrities.”
When an animal escapes captivity on the way to the slaughterhouse, Mike and his team become their saviors.
“Oftentimes we get a call if its a big animal, before Animal Control even gets a call about it. We’ve become synonymous with big animals that are loose. Especially cows,” Stura said.
Instead of being sent to their doom, the nonprofit facility gives them a home and allows them to find their own personality.
“How are you able to keep these animals’ egos in check when they have celebrity status?” Overmyer asked.
“Well, when we go up to meet Freddie you’ll find his ego is not in check,” joked Stura. “Freddie is full of himself all the time.”
“Does Fred know he’s a celebrity?” Overmyer asked.
“He absolutely does. He’s very full of himself!” Stura said.
One Skylands resident defied all odds by jumping out of a truck destined for slaughter. She wasn’t alone.
“She was super skinny, the vet checked her… and he said ‘There’s a giant calf in there.’ She was so skinny we couldn’t even tell! Two days later she gave birth to a giant beautiful calf, and that is Winter there who has a double chin. She’s so big!” Stura said.
The calf is three months old and now has a place to call home and happily live out her days.
“These animals literally fought for their lives, whether they jumped off a truck or escaped the slaughterhouse. If they fight for their lives, they too can arrive at a sanctuary,” Overmyer said.
“I like to think there’s a myth that goes around that if they fight for their lives and get out somehow, there’s a long haired guy who will give them a place to live,” Stura said. “I’m a truck driver. I’m a truck driver who loves these animals and always roots for the underdog. So if I can help somebody who’s struggling to help themselves, and I can give them a good life. That’s good for me. I’m nothing special, trust me. I’m just a truck driver.”
It takes about $700 a day just to feed the animals. Donations keep the nonprofit alive, and more than just the animals are rescued.
“You save them,” Overmyer said.
“We try to save them. And they save us. Trust me! I’m telling you straight out. We give them a home, a place to live and they give me a reason to live,” Stura said.
The story of Brianna has helped create new legislation: A bill has been introduced to the New Jersey Assembly that would make it illegal to slaughter pregnant animals.