Ralphy's Retreat struggling to survive pandemic

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A St. Williams woman who provides sanctuary to abused and neglected animals is struggling to survive in the midst of the pandemic.

Kara Burrow, of Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary, said COVID-19 forced her to cancel important fund-raising events and that’s led to a drop in donations.

“It has been really difficult because in addition to losing donations and revenue, the need for our sanctuary has gone up,” Burrow said. “We’ve taken in more animals during the pandemic.

“I can only guess it’s because people have discovered caring for them is more than are able to handle or in some cases, they’ve learned they’re not allowed to have them.”

Either way, the impact represents a double-whammy for Ralphy’s Retreat.

To add to the sanctuary’s woes, water for the animals became an issue when the well ran dry during a warm spell in the spring. That forced Burrow to bring in water for her animals adding to her costs at a time when fewer dollars were coming to support the sanctuary.


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Located at 85 Dancey Side Rd., Ralphy’s Retreat is a sanctuary for pot-bellied pigs and other animals that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Burrow also cares for some donkeys and some Highland cows that recently came into her custody.

The sanctuary is named after one of her first pot-bellied pigs and was started in Kitchener-Waterloo in 2003 before moving to St. Williams in 2010.

“The pandemic has been so hard on so many people and for people like us – those that operate animal sanctuaries, shelters and zoos – it has been especially hard I think because we don’t qualify for any kind of government support,” Burrow said. “A lot of the support programs are available to help businesses with employees.

“But I don’t have employees. It’s just me and a great group of volunteers who help keep the sanctuary going.”

In addition to feed and water for the animals there is also equipment maintenance and veterinary bills to pay. It costs about $1,000 a year to take care of a healthy pig, double that for one that is unhealthy.

Burrow said it is difficult for her to appeal to the public for financial support because she’s used to providing some sort of service or benefit to those who help out. In years past, Burrow would hold an open house, provide educational programing or other events that brought people to the sanctuary for a day.

All of that however has been impossible during pandemic-related lockdowns.

Burrow said she’s fortunate to know veterinarians who have helped keep her animals safe during the pandemic.

“I can’t say enough about the work of veterinarians during the pandemic,” she said. “They’ve been absolutely wonderful.

“They have worked very hard and I know that a lot of them have been targets of abuse of animal owners upset with COVID protocols.”

To learn more about Ralphy’s Retreat and to sponsor a pig visit and provide financial support visit https://www.ralphysretreat.ca/ .

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