If you love animals as much as we do, then you already know what an epic year 2016 was for animals. Thanks to the efforts of a whole bunch of awesome, kind-hearted people, countless animals were saved from lives of abuse, neglect, or exploitation – and the world has undoubtedly become a much happier place because of it.

One of the biggest pitfalls of being a hardcore animal lover is knowing that there are still some people out there who see animals more as “things” or “commodities” than living, breathing beings. Reading stories about animals being captured from the wild and forced into captivity or beloved pets getting callously abandoned simply break our hearts and tarnish our spirits. The best solution to that feeling of helplessness is knowing that for every sad story, there are 10-fold positive ones. Staying motivated and inspired is key to making an impact for the world’s voiceless animals, so if you’re in need of a boost of encouragement to kick off 2017, then look no further than some of our most epic rescues of 2016.

1. Freddie, the Cow Who Broke Free From NYC Slaughterhouse

Freddie the cow captured the hearts of thousands of people after he made a daring escape from a slaughterhouse in Jamaica, Queens. After a heated chase, Freddie was captured by the New York City Police Department and returned to the facility that intended to kill him. Thankfully, his epic freedom run managed to inspire the right people and Freddie was saved thanks to the efforts of Skylands Animal Sanctuary. Freddie is now living it up in his sanctuary home. Read his full story, here. 

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2. Bait Dog Saved From Horrific Life Refuses to Let the Past Stop Her From Loving Again!

Trinity is a pup who was brought to Calaveras County Animal Services by a good samaritan. Trinity was suffering from numerous extreme injuries, and the shelter feared she had been used as a bait dog for an illegal fighting ring. Given her grave condition, she was transferred to the local veterinary hospital for emergency treatment, and it was confirmed that this poor baby had been used as a live chew toy. Despite her state or the pain she endured, Trinity refused to stop loving the kind people around here. She has since found a loving forever home. Read her full story here.

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3. Rescued Elephant Who Spent 42 Years in Circus Enjoys a Well-Deserved Rest!

Mia, the elephant in this video, was forced to perform in a circus for 42 years of her life. While on the surface, circuses might seem like a “fun” time for elephants, in reality, they are anything but. Thankfully, the sweet ellie in this video doesn’t have to worry about the circus any more thanks to the rescue team at Wildlife SOS. After a lifetime of being coerced into doing tricks and performing before loud crowds, Mia seems perfectly content to enjoy a simple roll in the dirt – something all elephants deserve. Read the full story, here.

4. Traumatized Orphaned Elephants Couldn’t Fall Asleep, So Their Rescuers Made Them Jammies!

Rupa and Aashi the elephants lost their mothers soon after birth, and without the love and affection so essential for development, these babies just couldn’t fall asleep at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) rescue center in north-eastern India. Dr. Panjit Basumatary, a vet for IFAW said, “With the small elephants, it is important to control their body temperature. I noticed in the mornings they could be cold from staying in the concrete nursery after being out in the sun during the day.”  So the awesome sanctuary caretakers fashioned custom-made jammies to help the elephants fall asleep – and they worked!  Read the full story, here.

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5. Puppy Who Lost Both Eyes After Cruel Humans Poured Acid on Him Gets Saved

Einstein was five-weeks-old when he was subjected to some of the worst cruelty anyone can image. Investigators believe that acid was poured over the pup’s face, injuring him so badly that both of his eyes needed to be removed. The acid burned off part of his nose, whiskers, and injured his lip as well. Despite his condition, this little dog remained grateful to be alive and his rescuers did all they could to ensure he would have the best life possible. After lots of searching, Einstein found the perfect forever family! Read his story here.

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6. Monkey Who Lived in Isolation as a Pet for 25 Years Gets His Freedom!

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) came to the rescue of Joe, the monkey who had lived in a hole, as a pet, since 1991! For 25 years, he’d been living in this cramped, dirty cage that was literally a hole in the ground. But it wasn’t because he had been abandoned. Edwin Weik, WFFT’s founder, referred to Joe’s situation as one of the top 10 worst animal cruelty cases he’d seen in 17 years of rescuing animals. Thankfully, they got the monkey out and brought him to their sanctuary. Read the full rescue, here.

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7. After Living Under a House for Months, Homeless Poodle Finally Learns to Trust Humans Again 

Scotty the dog had been living under a house for five months and refused to let anyone come near him. When the Hope for Paws team finally located the pup, they knew they’d be in for a challenge. Little did they know that challenge would involve crawling under the foundation of a house and working for two hours to gain the dog’s trust. Once they finally looped a lucky leash around Scotty and got him back to the shelter for a bath and much-needed haircut, the team met an entirely different Scotty. Free from the weight and pain of his matted fur, he was happy and super lovable! Read the full story, here. 

8. Kind Woman Hand-Raises 3 RescuedPiglets and Gives Them a Better Life

These three piglets were born on a ranch to a mother whose milk had dried up after years of constant breeding. Unable to get the nourishment they needed, these piglets were doomed to a short life. In the eyes of the farmer, caring for these piglets would cost more than they were worth, so nothing was done to help them. Thankfully, Darci Feigel, took it upon herself to intervene and save these small lives. Hand nursing the piglets for three weeks, Feigel helped them grow into healthy little pigs. However, knowing she wouldn’t have the space to care for these three once they grew to be full size, she contacted Farm Sanctuary. Now the piglets are living free and happy! Read their story here.

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9. Little Chick Who Miraculously Survived Being Gassed and Frozen Gets Rescued

Red Baron was born into the egg industry and since males are considered non-profitable “waste,” he was gassed along with hundreds of his brothers and then frozen to be sold as snake food. Miraculously, this tiny chick survived and when he arrived at his destination, the person who heard his chirps decided to spare him and brought him to Edgar’s Mission. Saved from certain death, this happy chicken now spends his days in the care of the amazing sanctuary staff who absolutely adore him. Red Baron is known for hanging out on Pam’s shoulder or perched on her head! They really are inseparable friends. Read more here. 

10. This Amazing Young Girl Helped Save a Sick Horse Inches Away From Death With the Power of Love

Jo Jo the horse was rescued from a herd of 42 abandoned horses in Kentucky and was brought to several temporary homes where she would be comfortable. When Jo Jo the horse was rescued, she looked like a skeleton, weighing in at a mere 758 pounds. With this prognosis, there was little to no hope at all for her survival. Today, she’s a healthy 1,200-pound mare, all thanks to one little girl named Kaylee. Kaylee stayed with Jo Jo every day and gave her the love and support she needed to thrive. See the transformation here.

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11. Incredible Activists Save Illegally Captured Whale Sharks Destined for Aquarium and Set Them Free

An investigation and rescue mission carried out by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), photographed by Paul Hilton, showed us what the illegal wildlife trade really looks like. Two whale sharks were discovered in holding pens off of Indonesia’s Ambon Island, Maluku. According to WCS, the animals were destined for ocean theme parks in China. Luckily, this organization was able to orchestrate the release of these endangered animals and with the help of divers, the whales returned to their ocean home. Read more here.

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12. Courageous Mama Cat Who Sustained Horrible Burns Trying to Save Her Kittens Gets Rescued

Flame was found covered with burns by members from the organization Alley Cats and Kittens. They discovered that a fire had broken out on a nearby farm two weeks ago and from the looks of Flame, she had likely sustained burns trying to rescue her babies who she had been nursing in the farmhouse’s shelter. Unfortunately, Flame’s babies were nowhere to be found. Thankfully, this brave kitty made a full recovery! Read her story here.

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13. After a 20-Hour Rescue Mission, Working Elephant Experiences Freedom for the First Time in 55 Years

After 55 years in chains, held illegally, a starving and downtrodden elephant named Mohan gained his freedom thanks to the efforts of Wildlife SOS. In 2015, the organization attempted to rescue the elderly elephant but was met by a mob of over 300 people who prevented the team from saving Mohan. After this rescue attempt, Mohan’s keeper who had been keeping the elephant illegally filed a revision to the local government to gain custody of Mohan, which lead to an extended legal battle. But they never gave up and eventually won his release! Read more here.

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14. Dog Trapped in Well Cries Tears of Joy When She Sees a Rescuer Coming to Save Her 

Ruby, the dog in the video below, found herself trapped in a deep well. Unable to scale the steep, rocky walls, Ruby was left completely helpless. When Ruby saw the group of rescuers peering down at her from the top of the well, she came to life — she barked, whimpered, and wagged her tail, completely overwhelmed with emotion. While we can’t speak for Ruby, we think that she understood that these humans were there to help her. Read her story here.

15. Watch the Incredible Moment Two Rescuers Free Endangered Whale Shark Trapped in a Fishing Net

This video from Sea Shepherd’s Operation Albacore, serves as a perfect example of how commercial fishing impacts marine species. Here, we see an endangered whale shark trapped in tuna net. Thanks to the fast action of the Sea Shepherd team, the whale shark was freed from these restraints in time. If they hadn’t intervened, we can only imagine what would have become of this individual. Read the full story here. 

16. Courageous Rescuers Risk it all to Save Hundreds of Animals From Louisiana Floods 

In the wake of the catastrophic Louisiana Floods that took place in August, Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team (LSART) monitored the waters and sent out rescue teams where there are animals in distress. In collaboration, Denham Springs Animal Shelter took in animals left in the wake of the destruction. Read about their epic work here.

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17. Homeless Pit Bull Showers the People Who Saved Him With Kisses After Epic Rescue Mission 

Brutus the homeless Pit Bull was found in an alleyway by the Hope for Paws team. Sadly, Pit Bulls carry the burden of years of false stigma and myths that they are naturally vicious animals, when actually, this stereotype comes from the fact that they are frequently abused and misused in illegal dogfighting rings. With this in mind, life for homeless Pit Bulls is exponentially more difficult as they struggle to find food, clean water, and shelter to survive. Brutus was understandably skittish when Hope for Paws rescuers showed up, but all it took was a few treats and a calming call and he came right over! See the full rescue here.

 

18. This Loyal Dog Waited With His Family’s Belongings After They Abandoned Him on the Curb

Boo, the dog in the photo below, once had a family. When his family moved away, they left their unwanted belongings on the curb, which tells us that that is exactly how they saw poor Boo — as a belonging, rather than a being. Lucky for Boo, he was found by people who do care and ended up at Detroit Youth and Dog Rescue. Read the full story here.

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19. They Thought They Saved a Puppy Covered With Dirt – But They Got Quite the Surprise at the Vet

Builders at a construction site in Canary Wharf, London, must have been shocked when they discovered the little guy in the photo below trapped in a hole. Covered in dirt and plastic, the nameless baby fox was so filthy that his rescuers initially thought he was a puppy, so once they got him out of the hole, they took him to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital to get treated. Check out the awesome transformation here.

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20. Incredible Rescuers Save 50 Dogs From South Korean Meat Farm!

In an incredible victory, volunteers from the Humane Society International recently carried out the rescue of 50 dogs from a South Korean meat farm! These poor pups have spent the duration of their lives in filthy, tiny wire cages, scared, and traumatized. Thankfully, these animals have been saved from the harrowing fate of becoming butchered for profit as part of the dog meat trade. Now, these dogs are on their way to get the medical care and treatment they need. Eventually, these pups will be adopted into their forever homes. Read more here. 

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We can only wait and see what 2017 will bring for animals, but we hope these stories have helped inspire you!

Lead image source: LSART/Facebook