Young people participate in student agriculture programs like FFA and 4-H for some very good reasons: community service, leadership, educational opportunities, to continue a family tradition, and plain ol’ fun. Unfortunately for some students, the fun ends when they’re faced with sending someone they love to their death.
It’s common for students to bond with animals they care for every day. When a student is struggling, we offer them an alternative. No parent wants to see their child suffering, and no advisor wants to see their student have a bad experience with the program.
What is Free for Life?
Free for Life is a program to assist students who don’t want to send their animals to slaughter. Free for Life takes in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and other animals, and places them in sanctuaries or permanent adoptive homes.
Students apply to place their animals in our program and, as space permits, the animals live out the rest of their natural lives.
Who are you?
Animal Place, founded in 1989, is one of the oldest and largest animal sanctuaries in the country. We are a nonprofit 501c3 organization funded by private donors. We operate a 600-acre sanctuary in Grass Valley, California and a 60-acre animal shelter in Vacaville, California. Animals arrive from small and large farms, slaughterhouses, research facilities, neglect or cruelty cases, and student agriculture programs. Aside from rescue and sanctuary, we provide education on responsible animal care, and place animals in permanent adoptive homes when possible. In 2015 Animal Place was named best sanctuary for farm animals by an independent nonprofit. For more information, visit www.animalplace.org.
We took out a loan to buy the animal, and counted on selling them at auction to pay it back. What do we do now?
If the animal was purchased through a loan, it is the responsibility of the student and/or family to repay the loan. Students often take after-school jobs, babysit, have bake sales, or create GoFundMe pages to fundraise. Paying back the loan through their own time and skill is another opportunity to learn responsibility.
What about showing the animal at a fair?
Many students have shown their animals at fairs and then transferred ownership to a sanctuary. As long as students have ownership of the animal, they can choose what happens after the fair. Please note if a student wants to apply for our program, they should not sign up for a terminal fair, after which all market animals are slaughtered.
Why don’t you want them raising more animals?
We ask the student to sign an agreement that they won’t purchase and raise another animal as a project. This is to prevent students from experiencing another traumatic situation, and also to prevent them from re-applying to our program with another animal. Understand the Free For Life program incurs significant effort and costs, and those costs are borne by donors.
Are you against student agriculture programs?
Student agriculture programs offer opportunities for young people to learn responsibility, perseverance, and the value of hard work. No one can be reasonably against that. They can also learn these skills through sports, music, volunteerism, scouting, or student ag projects in other areas like science, technology, and community service. Students who want to help animals may wish to look into local shelters and humane societies, which often have programs for young people. As an animal sanctuary, we are of course against raising animals for profit and for food.