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It all started six years ago when Kristin Hartness brought a tiny “micro-pig” into her life while living on a Carribean island. Ziggy was promised to remain 20 pounds but the piggy had other plans. Now at 250 pounds, Ziggy inspired his parents, Kristin and Jay, to go vegan and the family has traveled the United States in an RV, opening dozens of people’s eyes and hearts to how sentient, intelligent, and downright goofy pigs can be.

And all of his travels have been adorable documented on his Facebook page “Ziggy the Traveling Piggy,” which boasts over 50,000 Ziggy fans. From his famous temper tantrums, his silly antics and just all around adorable spotted self, people just can’t get enough Ziggy.

And Ziggy’s mission to help his fellow friends hasn’t slowed down one bit. Now, Ziggy’s parents have opened a farm animal sanctuary in Providence, North Carolina, just an hour north of Greensboro. The Ziggy-inspired farm sanctuary, aptly named Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary is a paradise for animals rescued from horrible conditions but given a second chance at the farm.

It is evident that Kristin and Jay love every single animal at the sanctuary. They know all of their likes, dislikes, and could describe their personalities in immense detail!

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A Different Life for Farm Animals

The majority of the farm animals who live in the U.S. are raised on factory farms. In fact, over 99 percent are brought up in horrible conditions in the name of producing cheap “food” for the masses. While the stories of most farm animals do not end with a happy ending, some individuals are able to break free of the cruel animal agriculture industry, whether by being seized and rescued or literally running for their lives.

Many farm animal sanctuaries have been established nationwide to care for these formerly abused animals. These safe havens for farm animals provide them with daily care, allowing them to live out their lives in the most natural environment possible – without being exploited.

Kristin and Jay are dedicated to providing the same level of love and care they provided their child Ziggy with to all of the animals on the sanctuary. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a day at Ziggy’s Refuge and was able to meet all of the wonderful animals and learn all of their stories. Ready for some cuteness? Let’s go!

It goes without saying that I first had to say hello to the star of the show… Ziggy! This sweetheart sat right down next to me and enjoyed lots of nose scratches. 

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Ziggy also showed me around inside the house … and got some snacks for himself while in the kitchen! 

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Then I got to meet the wonderful goats! Just look at that cute nose.

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As well as Max, the donkey! He was very sweet and loved to be wherever you were. 

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Ziggy’s Refuge is also home to Allie, a blind cow. 

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Allie lives with Elvis, another rescue cow, and Max. 

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And of course, I had to spend time with sweethearts Coral and Cruz (pictured)!

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Not only is Ziggy’s Refuge a place for rescue animals to find sanctuary, Kristin and Jay are working to change the public’s perspective of farm animals. Ziggy’s Refuge hosts various fun events to bring people to the farm who maybe wouldn’t go on their own. For instance, they are hosting “Ziggy Fest” in October on the property, that will include live music, local beer from Sanctuary Brewing Company and of course, hang out time with all of the wonderful animals.

Already, many of the animals have turned people away from seeing them as only meat. Being able to get up close and personal with a rescued farm animal helps people realize that humans are not the only species on Earth deserving of love and respect. Other animals have thoughts, feelings, and desires of their own, which deserve to be acknowledged, even if we can’t fully understand them. The continued presence of farm animal sanctuaries, where threatened, neglected, or abused animals can live in peace, is vitally important.

When I asked how often the sanctuary gets emails or calls about an animal in need of rescue, Kristin said every day. “At least once a day, sometimes even more than that.”

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Changing Hearts and Minds

One thing is for certain: Kristin and Jay love the animals in their care, seeing them as their children. In a world where the lives of animals are nearly always considered to be unimportant and disposable, it is almost miraculous that so many humans out there are beginning to say “no” to that concept, and do whatever they can to provide animals with the care and consideration that they need.

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As animal lovers, one of the most important things we can do for them is to raise awareness of their plight in any way that we can and Support all those who have the courage to speak out and work tirelessly on their behalf.

Even if you don’t live near Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary, there are still hundreds of sanctuaries that are looking for dedicated volunteers. Volunteering to help animals means more than just cleaning up messes. Animal rescue facilities have websites and social networking profiles and need tech-savvy people to help maintain a web presence. They need party planners, cooks, and artists to help advertise and run outreach events. Handy people are needed to build storage structures and play equipment for the animals. Writers and artists can pair compelling rescue stories and pet profiles with attractive videos and photos to share on the rescue’s website and social media pages. Even legal experts are in demand to review copyright and animal welfare issues. No matter what your passion and specialty, your local rescue could use your help.

Volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary is an incredibly worthwhile and beneficial experience for you, the sanctuary staff and the animals. The work can be physically challenging, but you’ll go home recognizing that you’ve worked to help animals who have endured more than we can know.

For more information about Ziggy’s Refuge Animal Sanctuary and for ways to help Support their lifesaving work on behalf of all animals, click here.

All image source: Michelle Neff