CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — There's a place on our First Coast that's become a safe haven for abused and neglected farm animals from all over the country.
CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm, a non-profit organization, sits on 20-acres in the Belmore area of Clay County. It's a place where the animals not only have a name, but a story, too.
Founder Lee Sackett has been rescuing animals for more than 30 years.
"I truly love animals. I love all animals," he said.
He created CJ Acres when he realized there weren't a lot of resources for abused and neglected farm animals.
"I realized 18 years ago there were rescues for dogs and cats and even for horses but there weren't, at that time, a lot of resources for other animals that needed help," he said.
Sackett said his goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce animals suffering from abuse, abandonment, neglect or a catastrophic disaster.
There's about 100 animals on the property, including sheep, goats, cows, turkeys, and ducks.
The animals come from sad and sometimes horrific backgrounds. Earlier this year, Sackett rescued a cow and her calf seized in a slaughterhouse raid hundreds of miles away.
"They were rescued from Coco Farms, which is near Miami. One of the largest animal rescues in the nation happened a couple months ago, 9,500 animals. They were 2 of those 9,500."
He said other animals, like Moooudini, were saved by a stroke of good luck.
Moooudini is a Brahman bull who escaped from an Orlando slaughterhouse and wound up in a family's backyard.
"They had a swimming pool, so he had water. They had grass, so he had food. They had a fenced in backyard, so he had security. He just hung out for about 4 days until they came home," he said.
Sackett knows the family's daughter, who owns a vegan restaurant in Orlando. She called Sackett to avoid sending Moooudini back to the slaughterhouse. Without a microchip or ear tag, Moooudini became fair game for adoption.
"They contacted us to see if that could qualify as abandonment. We went down and got him and he has been here ever since. That was a couple years ago."
Sackett and his team of 20 volunteers spend countless hours with the animals and help them learn how to trust humans again.
"It's the joy of the turnaround that keeps me going, that keeps our volunteers going. That moment where the animal begins to get fattened again or is happy to see a human rather than frightened."
The adoption requirements are also very strict.
"I didn't rescue it so it could become lunch for someone. In the case of a pig or a goat or a cow, they can't be eaten. They can't be used for medical experimentation."
Sackett estimates he's saved hundreds of animals over the years. The work is time consuming but worth it, he said.
"We can't control what happened in their past, but we can do something about it and improve their life for the future."
The sanctuary thrives on donations from the public and help from volunteers. Click here to visit the 'Herd Calendar' and see the next opportunity to volunteer and help with the animals.
The next free public tour is Sunday, July 19.
Click here if you would like to learn about volunteering opportunities at the sanctuary.
Click here to stay up-to-date with the animals available for adoption.