Sara Penhallegon stands with three horses Center Valley Animal Rescue seized from abusive homes. Tilly, front, Angel, center, and Diva are being rehabilitated and made ready for adoption. (Karen Griffiths / for Peninsula Daily News)

Sara Penhallegon stands with three horses Center Valley Animal Rescue seized from abusive homes. Tilly, front, Angel, center, and Diva are being rehabilitated and made ready for adoption. (Karen Griffiths / for Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Animal rescue center: Home between homes

AN ARRAY OF creatures large and small, domesticated and wild, reside at Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene. Sadly, all are there because of owner neglect, abuse and/or cruelty. Most arrive emaciated, their bodies reduced to skin and bones. Their hair has fallen out, and they are riddled with mites, worms and disease. You name it, and they are probably suffering from it.

Sara Penhallegon, 42, the center’s director, vet tech and licensed wildlife rehabilitator, deals with it all while nursing the animals back to health and rehabilitating them to make them adoptable.

She started working in the veterinary field in 1995 at a veterinary office. She then became a licensed vet technician. In 2000, she began working with wildlife alongside others who were experienced and held rehabilitation permits. She said somewhere around 2012 she got her own rehabilitation permit.

Currently, Penhallegon and her helpers are working on a time-consuming animal-hoarder situation from which Clallam County Animal Control seized 200-plus animals.

“Many times, we have to say no when asked to rescue an animal,” she said. “Unless we’re being asked by law enforcement. Those take priority over other rescues.”

Rescuing more than 200 animals from one site has been “an unusual start to the new year, and it’s been the largest case, in terms of the most animals we’ve ever taken in from one site.”

Before, the largest cases averaged about 100 animals.

“2020 was probably our worst year for cruelty cases as a whole,” she said. “We had the most cruelty cases we’ve ever had. I can’t remember what our number was, but we had physical-abuse cases; we had the regular starvation, neglect cases, hoarding cases. Those are normal ones that we do really regularly, just usually on a smaller scale.”

When I arrived at the center, she and an assistant were in the isolation barn documenting a group of turkeys they’d picked up from the site. They weighed, measured, checked the feathers for mites and the skin for lesions. Then each fowl received a dose of antibiotics and vaccines before being placed in a large horse stall and paddock retrofitted to contain the birds for a 10-day isolation period.

Once certain the birds won’t infect the rest of the center’s animals, they will move to a larger area to be prepared for adoption. In the meantime, the turkeys will munch on healthy feed and drink from an ample supply of clean, fresh water.

Penhallegon then treated me to a tour of the facilities. First, she introduced me to the Dexter mini cows that had arrived 1½ years ago as part of a cruelty case.

“We had 13 to start. A bunch got adopted, and now we just have four left,” Penhallegon said. “All of our farm animals here are from cruelty cases seized by county animal control officers.”

Next, she entered the pen of a newly arrived emu in its isolation pen. I was taken aback by the size of the bird’s prehistoric three-toed, clawed feet. When her quarantine is over, she’ll join another emu, a giant pig and a llama in a pasture.

She pointed across a couple of pastures to the new, not-yet completed dog barn. Thankfully, it was finished enough to house 16 recently rescued Anatolian shepherds that were “living in horrid conditions,” she said.

“We’ve rehabilitated them, and some are starting to become available for adoption,” she said.

The “we” she referred to are a plethora of supportive volunteers.

“We probably have about 100 volunteers on our roster,” Penhallegon said. “Of them, we have 40 to 50 regulars who help out when they can.”

There was a good-looking black pony and her adorable mini-donkey baby, which had never been touched or handled.

“She truly is wild,” she said.

Nearby were three horses renamed Angel, Diva and Tilly. All three had been starved, and two had bruises all over their bodies.

In another section were the pens of chickens and roosters, and another held about 30 spayed or neutered rabbits.

“Any animal that it’s possible to spay or neuter, we do,” she said.

Inside the main building, she escorted me into the “hot room,” home to “cold-blooded animals” and reptiles like snakes, including a python. Another room housed slider turtles, which are illegal to raise. Another room held cats, and in another were birds.

The main building also housed the offices and a full-scale hospital that includes X-ray, ultrasound and dental equipment. Penhallegon is grateful to have the help of five veterinarians who volunteer their time to help.

Penhallegon’s home sits on a hillside overlooking the property. Nearby, and away from the public, is a wildlife center where Bob the bobcat and other wildlife live.

A pet food bank also is onsite for those with an urgent, short-term need, and pet food is also sent to local food banks.


Penhallegon’s goal is to get all the domestic animals adopted. Even then, she is very picky about who gets to adopt. The center considers many things when looking at applications to ensure an animal is going to a good home. Mainly, a person must have experience with the breed or species to be considered. Occasionally, a “really easy-going horse” may get adopted by someone less experienced with horses, but “we don’t adopt out a single horse” to a single home because “horses are herd animals.”

“We screen people pretty well,” she said. “We talk with their veterinarian first, and then we do home visits.

“We turn more people down than we say yes to.”


A facility as large and efficient as Center Valley can only exist through the ongoing support of benefactors and donations, both large and small. Some donate occasionally and some monthly. All if it provides vital aid to the facility and the animals.

“We have awesome donors and volunteers,” Penhallegon noted. “There’s no way I could do it by myself, so we wouldn’t be here without all of them.”

For more information or to donate, contact Center Valley Animal Rescue, visit or call 360-765-0598.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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