One of my favorite and most memorable moments of 2017 was when I had the opportunity to visit Rooterville Animal Sanctuary in Melrose, Florida. Since I live in south Florida, near Miami, it made for a small road trip through most of the state. Melrose is in the northern/central area of Florida (near Gainsville) so you can imagine the rural vibe, green pastures, and ranches. Unfortunately, of course, farm life also comes with a bunch of “Fresh BBQ” spots and butchers scattered around town. So it was nice and kind of cool to see an all vegan farm animal sanctuary amidst the craziness, doing their best to educate people and challenge the status quo.
When we finally arrived at the sanctuary we were greeted by a handful of the roaming pigs on the other side of the property gate. I could barely control my excitement as you can see in the photo below (don’t mind my ridiculous/untamed eyebrows lol). I was astonished to see how the potbellied pigs looked miniature next to the gigantic farm hogs. These massive creatures looked so happy and just as excited to see us and get some extra love that day!
We walked through the front of the property to reach the main house for our tour and met with the founder/owner, Elaine West. She gave some basic rules and asked if we were vegan? Since we said yes, she asked if it were okay that she skip giving us the tour because a cold front was about to come down and herself and her staff were busy working hard to make sure the animals would be warm, fed and happy. She explained that most of the tour is talking about why a vegan diet and lifestyle is important and kind of exposing real facts about how factory farms actually function. She wanted to make sure we were educated on the topic before rushing to take care of her beloved animals. Elaine was wonderful and let us know we can walk around, read some signs and interact with the animals for as long as we wanted.
We started off hanging out with some more pigs. There are so many! The pigs are hilarious at trying to get our attention. They loved photos and selfies and would randomly roll over for a belly rub. A couple of the alphas were a bit more territorial picking fights with smaller pigs who just wanted attention as well. The funny part is that when fights break out the tiniest little dogs, Gracie and Ginger, would come out, break up the fight with their barking and heard each pig in a different direction. This was so adorable and brilliant! They were classic, yet miniature farm dogs on a mission! As you can see from these heart-melting photos, they were also extremely spoiled babies who secretly also wanted attention LOL. Read about their rescue story here!
Apart from the famous pigs, Rooterville is home to many other exploited farm animals such as chickens and roosters, goats, cows, miniature horses, and turkeys. The property at its start was 5 acres and now has grown to 30 acres, meaning these lovely animals have a good amount of space to live the lives they deserve and we had quite an experience watching them. As we made it over to where the majestic cows hung out we seemed to connect with one of them specifically. Tinsel, the beautiful black, and white cow, was so sweet and tender. We patted his sides and scratched his chin while looking into his pretty eyes and all I could see was love and comfort. He was happy to be there hanging out with us! His companion, Holly was busy munching on some food and did not want any distractions! Read how Tinsel avoided becoming veal and how Holly avoided becoming a dairy cow here!
If you’ve never been around goats you are missing out! Their personalities are like none other, always messing around, making strange noises, and eating EVERYTHING! Look at that guy just chillin on his throne (photo above)! Doodle, the miniature horse was just a curious little thing following us around the fence but scoffing at us because let’s face it, he is wayyyyy too good for us, mere human mortals! LOL
In all seriousness, going to Rooterville was an incredible experience and I was extremely impressed by the way they run the sanctuary and the way they hope to educate locals and visitors. They tell stories about the animals they save, showing people where they come from and how they deserve to live. They teach compassion and are straightforward about the facts and what each and every one of us can do immediately to literally save so many lives. If you did not know about Rooterville, you do now and I urge you to visit their website to learn more. Hopefully, someday you will get the chance to visit them in Melrose and experience the magic of safe, happy, and loved animals!
As our time at Rooterville came to a close we thanked Elaine and the staff for what they do and made our way back to the car. Ozzie, the ½ Anatolian – ½ Great Pyrenees, walked us out and basically waved us goodbye as we drove off in a happy daze.