Shayna Robnett holds Phoenix, a rooster abandoned near Baker Dip near Morse Creek, at Lilly’s Safe Haven in Port Angeles. Robnett estimates the nonprofit has rescued more than 70 roosters since its inception about four years ago. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Shayna Robnett holds Phoenix, a rooster abandoned near Baker Dip near Morse Creek, at Lilly’s Safe Haven in Port Angeles. Robnett estimates the nonprofit has rescued more than 70 roosters since its inception about four years ago. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Lilly’s Safe Haven fills in animal rescue gaps

Director brings in abandoned roosters, ducks and sheep

PORT ANGELES — When it comes to the inhabitants of Lilly’s Safe Haven, Shayna Robnett can not only detail how many of each kind of animal reside here — 44 roosters, for example — but also introduce each of them by name, when they were found and what they’re like to be around.

“You make so much of a personal connection,” said Robnett, co-founder and director of the nonprofit, “because it might be the last time you see them.”

For about four years, Robnett’s organization has been busy filling in some of the gaps of the Olympic Peninsula’s animal rescue efforts, taking in predominantly roosters and sheep but also a handful of ducks and rabbits, as needed.

“People don’t realize how many animals are dumped,” Robnett said, recalling instances of nine, 10, 15 chickens at a time crowded into cardboard boxes and dumped into gullies or ditches.

Roosters in particular make up much of the population here.

She said their presence often is the result of breeding and discarding animals that are seen as disposable.

“These are individuals … some of the best friends I’ve ever had,” Robnett said, crossing the yard toward the sheep pen.

In mid-June, Robnett and company got a message about a pair of Indian Runner ducks dumped at Carrie Blake Community Park in Sequim.

Larger than the wild ducks that typically inhabit the park, these weren’t the first domestic ducks animal rescuers have helped find homes rather than be dumped in the wild.

Robnett said these ducks do not have the ability to fly and often fall prey to predators, or starve or freeze to death.

Because Lilly’s Safe Haven was at capacity, she connected with a fellow sanctuary, one of 30 Robnett keeps in touch with, to take them on.

While ducks are at times an issue in Sequim — two of the rescue’s three Muscovy ducks are from Clallam County’s east end — the bigger problem is the roosters. Since its inception, Robnett and her wife Kristen have rescued more than 70 roosters, abandoned in various areas around the county, along with 18 hens and sheep and bunnies at Lilly’s Safe Haven.

The animal rescue is in the process of getting more space. Currently making home at Robnett’s aunt’s property just west of Port Angeles city limits, Lilly’s Safe Haven’s new home will be — pending some permits and construction — a 4.9-acre piece of land just west of Carlsborg that the rescue’s director hopes to move into soon.

“We’re excited; it’s almost like a blank canvas,” Robnett said, detailing the property that will have 80-foot chicken runs, lush grass and several trees key to many of the animals needing shade during the summer months. Plus, it’s just three minutes away from the veterinarian the organization uses for its rescues.

It’s a move the couple has been planning for several years.

“As we have room, we will be able to take in [more] animals,” Robnett said.

Eye-opener

Robnett said she and Kristen got into rescuing a bit by accident, instigated by taking in a lamb from a friend.

Lilly, the rescue organization’s namesake, was born premature and needed a home.

“Not knowing a thing about sheep, I researched a lot,” Robnett said, then bought Lilly a friend. “I thought, ‘We have an acre; we can take more.’”

The impromptu adoption changed Robnett personally: Lilly’s is a vegan sanctuary where they don’t eat or use any animal products.

Soon afterward, the pair rescued a trio of chickens at Baker Dip, a spot just west of Morse Creek east of Port Angeles, and soon after that, five more on Del Guzzi Drive, a spot they would learn is a popular dumping ground for animals.

“I didn’t think this was a problem in my town,” Robnett said.

“We thought, ‘OK, this is an issue.’ We decided to fill the void of all the dumped animals.”

Clallam County residents connect with Lilly’s Safe Haven through social media about potential rescues. It’s also where the nonprofit raises funds for donations; because of its atypical model, the organization doesn’t qualify for many grants associated with animal recuse groups.

The animals here, some of them roosters who are veterans of the cock-fighting world, all have back stories. Here is Fabio, a rooster found abandoned with 15 hens on Del Guzzi Drive, and RuPaul, with feathers askew atop his head, who was found off River Road in Sequim.

Here are a trio of chickens found off Ward Road, north of Sequim.

Here is Russell, a rooster who knows his name and comes running when Robnett calls him from across the field.

“People breed them and them dump them, five or 10 at a time,” she said.

And here are “The Book Boys,” so named because they were found dumped in chilly weather conditions this past November at the Port Angeles Library.

Nine of the 10 have survived; on this visit, one of the “Book Boys” is inside recovering from an ear infection.

Nearly all of the roosters have been inside and enjoy being cuddled, though they often have to be carefully separated, Robnett said, as some of their fighting backgrounds mean they will attack each other, or fights will break out over food guarding.

But they generally get along with each other, she said, as well as with the couple’s four small dogs.

One sheep the organization adopted was found scrambling across Woodcock Road. Robnett said it took her group and county animal control workers five hours to rescue him.

One nine-chicken rescue took two weeks to gather all individuals, she said. Some people driving by were very supportive, she said, while others joked that they were simply trying to catch their next dinner.

“I wish more people were more open to having a rooster around,” she said.

Lilly’s Safe Haven will occasionally re-home roosters, she noted, but not to people looking for a replacement to an animal they haven’t protected from predators.

While her wife works full time out of the area, Robnett said she’s dedicated to the rescue that essentially works out as a full-time job.

“It’s worth it,” she said, looking across the field at the rooster and rabbit pens, and the sheep grazing.

“Lilly changed my life. They really change your soul.”

For more about Lilly’s Safe Haven, visit facebook.com/lillys.safehaven, email lillyssafehaven1@gmail.com or call 360-775-6446.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at michael.dashiell@sequimgazette.com.

Lilly’s Safe Haven, home to a number of animals — predominantly sheep, such as Hope, pictured here, and roosters — is looking at moving to a piece of property just west of Carlsborg. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Lilly’s Safe Haven, home to a number of animals — predominantly sheep, such as Hope, pictured here, and roosters — is looking at moving to a piece of property just west of Carlsborg. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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