Owner of Volunteer Animal Shelter Faces Eviction
NEKESA MUMBI MOODY
Mar. 14, 1995
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (AP) _ For the aging pony with a broken jaw, the abandoned blind dog and the cat with seven toes on each paw, Sarah Whalen's farm has been a savior from euthanasia.
Now, after nearly a decade of caring for unwanted, forgotten and stray animals, Whalen is facing eviction from the farm where she runs her volunteer shelter, Pets Alive.
``I can't imagine what will happen,'' said a nervous Whalen, who must appear in Town of Wallkill court Thursday to answer an eviction notice served over the weekend.
The judge can order an extension or force her out within 72 hours. If Whalen is evicted, her hundred-odd animals must be immediately placed in other shelters or private homes or face being put to sleep.
Whalen says her now-estranged husband, Leo, bought the property 60 miles northwest of New York City in 1986, then stopped paying taxes several years ago. A friend, who Whalen won't identify, bought the mortgage and agreed to sell the farm to her after her divorce. Then the eviction notice arrived.
She won't comment on why she is being evicted, and says the solution to her quandary is to raise at least $250,000 to buy the property. Recent stories on Whalen's plight have prompted donations totaling more than $60,000 from across the country.
``It's breaking my heart. I wish I could help, and I don't know how,'' said John Contino, an animal rescue worker in New York City who has placed several dogs with Whalen.
Pets Alive is considered the only shelter in the state that will accept just about any type of animal, without regard to its adoptability, and house it indefinitely until a suitable home is found.
That policy has turned Whalen's farm into a patch of animal heaven _ a sanctuary from almost certain death for horses destined for dog food and dogs declared dangerous by the courts.
Most of the animals at Pets Alive have been neglected or abused, like the miniature pony who had his jaw broken by his owner. North, a blind golden retriever, was brought to the farm for temporary boarding three years ago. The owner never returned.
North is one of 80 dogs at Pets Alive. There also are 30 cats, several horses and goats, a parrot, a pig and a steer named Andrew.
Whalen relies on donations and her own money to pay the farm's expenses of about $4,000 a month. Volunteers occasionally pitch in their labor.
Ironically, Whalen grew up in a home where no animals were allowed. ``I never had an animal until I was 27 years old,'' she said. ``My mom loved animals from afar _ the farther the better.''
She credits her first dog, a golden retriever, with saving the life of her then-infant son by finding him after he had wandered away. After that, she dedicated her life to helping animals, and worked as an animal control officer for almost 30 years.
The possibility that Whalen's shelter could be closed distresses animal rights advocates who don't think animals should be killed by shelters.
``People will not have a place to bring their animals, a no-kill shelter, for adoption,'' said David Stein, a lawyer for the Manhattan-based Legal Action for Animals.
EDITORS: The address for Pets Alive Inc. is Rd. 10, Box 836, Derby Road, Middletown, N.Y. 10940. The telephone number is (914) 386-9738.