Our Mission & History

Animal Place’s Mission

To provide refuge for unwanted farmed animals, to further their welfare through education of the public, and to foster ethics of compassion and responsibility towards nonhuman animals by advocating a vegan lifestyle.

Our History

How It All Began

The idea of dropping everything, selling homes, and moving to raw land in rural northern California to rescue farmed animals is not for the faint of heart. 

And yet that is exactly what Kim Sturla and Ned Buyukmihci did in 1988 – both sold their homes, emptied their savings account, and purchased 60 acres in Vacaville, CA. While creating the sanctuary, they lived in a trailer without electricity, septic, phone, or other “amenities.” But they had the conviction that what they were doing was right.

For Ned, a veterinary ophthalmologist and professor at UC Davis, providing sanctuary to rescued farmed animals offered him a respite from the university’s barrage of anti-animal rights sentiment.

How It All Began

Says Ned, “I wasn’t so naive to think that starting a sanctuary for farmed animals would make a difference in the astronomical numbers being raised and killed each year. But giving those individuals a chance to live their lives to the fullest mattered to them. From a purely selfish point, I enjoyed living with and being around these wonderful individuals.”

Kim worked for a humane society and saw firsthand her colleagues’ disconnect toward farmed animals. While moving to their new home in Vacaville, the shelter took in a stray piglet. The shelter staff named her Zelda and doted on her.

“We’d all take breaks, visit Zelda in her straw-filled dog kennel, and share our lunch with her. We adored her.” But when it came time to find a home for Zelda, the only offers came from people interested in fattening her up to barbeque her.

Kim and her colleagues knew this was unacceptable and refused to adopt her to anyone interested in killing her.

How It All Began

“But around the same time we were trying to find Zelda a home, we held a fundraising event to raise money for dog kennels . . . and ham was served. No one made the connection. While they gave treats to Zelda, they were snacking on her brothers and sisters!”

That year,1989, Zelda became the first official rescue of the newly incorporated Animal Place. Constructing fencing and building the first barn took a year, but the sanctuary was now ready for residents. Ned and Kim would be the sole caregivers and funders for the next ten years, volunteering at the sanctuary while working full-time.

What started as a volunteer-run, small sanctuary has transformed into one of the most respected sanctuaries in the country. For years, Ned and Kim had done more than care about animals – the sanctuary was a physical reflection of their compassion in action. Today, it is a model sanctuary with two facilities (600 acres in Grass Valley and the 12-acre Rescue & Adoption Center in Petaluma), 20+ employees, a cadre of volunteers and interns, and tens of thousands of supporters.

But in the beginning, it was just Kim and Ned, their pups, some raw land, and a germinating idea of rescuing and sheltering farmed animals.Want to know more about what Animal Place has accomplished in 30 years? Watch a short video about our rescues over the years here.


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