Sometimes, it takes something like surviving cancer to give you a reason to change your life.
A lover of animals, Lisa Miskella, a Stratford native, had planned to be a veterinarian, but as often happens, life had other ideas. After a cancer diagnosis in 2012 and a year of surgeries and recovery, Miskella who had raised a family and ran home-based businesses like candle making and party design, decided it was time to go for her dream and created the Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary.
“After cancer I looked at life differently and wanted to make my life matter,” said Miskella. “I decided to make my dream a reality.”
Miskella’s organization is not a rescue, it is a sanctuary, meaning that her facility becomes the animals’ forever home. And don’t expect to find cats and dogs–at least a lot of cats and dogs.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love cats and dogs,” said Miskella. “But after going to livestock and slaughter auctions and researching how these animals are treated, how horribly, I had to do something.”
An official 501(c)(3) as of October 2018, Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary currently houses 35 animals: goats, chickens, rabbits and donkeys, although Miskella will take all farm animals–as space allows.
And that’s the problem. Miskella is just about at full capacity in her current Middlebury location and has been fervently looking for a new place and working with volunteers to raise money. She had hoped to break ground this month.
“We wanted to have everything completed by the end of the year,” said Miskella. “To be able to move we have to find a location and be able to build all the barns, paddocks and facilities–we’re looking at $288,000, and we only have about $100,000 so far. I have to turn away horses, cows and donkeys because I don’t have room here.”
Fundraising has become a priority. Miskella is putting together an animal sponsorship program so donors can support specific animals and hopes her future facility can serve as a place for field trips and scouting activities as well as animal therapy and a place for education about humane farming.
There’s a national network of farm animal sanctuaries that Miskella is a part of, but for now her focus is on Connecticut and New England.
“I’m driving to Maine on Sunday to get chickens,” said Miskella. “I have two four-week-old baby goats inside in a playpen (it’s too cold to keep them outside) that I have to bottle feed every three hours. I got them from a slaughter auction.”
Goats, Miskella admited, were never of particular interest, but kids Jax and Ted (and the others) have changed that.
“Goats are more affectionate than dogs,” said Miskella. “It was so special when Millie [below], a goat and her daughter who came to us from a petting farm in October, put her head in my lap.
"She trusted us and you could see that she trusted us, that she understood that we were helping her. Even chickens, they kind of sense it.”
For more information or to donate, visit Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary.
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