Peaceworks Animal Sanctuary owners seek Bedford's OK
BEDFORD -- Lefty is a one-eyed, 14-year-old horse who needed a home.
"Nobody wanted Lefty, but we did," said Ray Brouillette of Bedford. "Lefty is a great horse. He's won $130,000 on the racetrack, but no one wants a one-eyed horse."
Lefty's mother kicked his eye out by accident. He started racing at age 2 and ran the track for seven years, he said.
Mr. Maxx had been tied up for seven years and has no canine teeth left after trying to chew through his chains. When Mr. Maxx arrived at the Peaceworks Animal Sanctuary, he was emaciated and heartworm-positive.
These animals and others that had been abused, surrendered or abandoned have found a home at Peaceworks Animal Sanctuary at 24 Old Bedford Road.
Brouillette and Sheila Jacks, owners of the nonprofit sanctuary, have been rescuing farm animals and dogs and keeping them on their leased property since Oct. 26, 2012. Brouillette and Jacks live on the 12-acre property and currently provide a haven to nine horses, five pigs and 11 dogs.
"These animals have a common thread, they have no place to go and nobody to take them," said Jacks. "Most of the time when an animal comes to us it's not adoptable, it's on death row. Either a horse goes to slaughter or a dog gets put down. There's 4 million dogs a year in this country that are put down."Brouillette and Jacks have been certified by the Department of Agriculture, but according to town ordinance, operating a sanctuary in the residential and agricultural zone on Old Bedford Road is not permitted. To continue operating the sanctuary, the couple went before the Zoning Board of Adjustment in April, and at a second meeting on May 21, they were granted a variance. They will now appear before the Planning Board Monday, Dec. 2, for a site plan review.
Their situation is unique as there is no precedent in town for operating a sanctuary, but because it is Brouillette and Jacks' primary residence, they can own as many animals as they wish as long as they're healthy.
However, they need the town's blessing so they can continue to receive and care for animals sent to them from the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees the animals' care at the sanctuary.
The ZBA ruled that the current use of the property is within the character of the ordinance; is similar to an agricultural use within the confines of the existing structures; would not impact values of surrounding properties; and denial of a variance would create hardship for the applicant.
"I think the fact that the state agriculture commissioner is going to be involved with inspecting will actually tend to help public health, safety or welfare," said ZBA chairman Eric Bernard at the May 21 hearing.
The sanctuary is not a business nor an adoption agency, Jakes said. Before the property was purchased in 2012 by Old Bedford Road Realty LLC, it was a sheep farm operated by Bob Hagen.
"We didn't change anything. The 12 acres were already fenced in, there's an electric fence for the horses, the pen was existing, and the outside of the barn is the same, but we made improvements inside," said Brouillette. "The only thing we had to do was move a dog kennel because it was too close to an abutter's property."
Jacks said the sanctuary does not create any more traffic than a normal household, has no business hours and does not impact the area.
Brouillette and Jacks moved from Massachusetts to Bedford and have worked with many animal rescue agencies. They pay for about 80 percent of the costs for care and maintenance of the animals. Brouillette said it costs about $1,800 for grain and hay every four weeks, and $270 every five weeks to pay for farrier services for seven horses, and $130 each for the larger horses.
One of their dogs, Scrappy, a 5-year-old mix, was to be euthanized in North Carolina. It has cost $2,700 so far to bring him back to health.
Phoenix, a 19-year-old warmblood breed, is a retired police horse from Massachusetts who worked at parades and on beach patrol. He was adopted by a woman who was eventually no longer able to care for him. Jakes said he's a large horse, now in well-deserved retirement, who cannot be kept in a stall. There's also a 5-year-old horse at Peaceworks worth $25,000 that can no longer be ridden.
"What do you do with them? They can go nowhere except be put down or to a sanctuary. If we didn't take him in, the horse had no alternative," said Brouillette.
Brouillette and Jacks get some financial help through online fundraising and at expos. At a recent fundraiser at the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire, they raised $500 through T-shirts and sweatshirt sales, but after costs they netted $100.
"We live and breathe this. We do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are committed to this. We have saved animals that have been thrown away. We have saved dogs from New York, Texas and down south that only had hours to live," said Brouillette.