Saturday, February 24, 2024

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People & Pets

Lagans provide a sanctuary for pet farm animals


Kaitie and Greg Lagan with their kids, Charlie, 8, Harper, 6, and Palmer, 4.

Kaitie and Greg Lagan left suburban West Des Moines to raise their family in rural Norwalk.

The acreage included room for a pasture, and Kaitie thought a few goats would be ideal. Then she heard of an alpaca that was ill-kept and rescued the animal. 

After a pig had fallen out of a truck on the interstate near Iowa City and made the news about riding in a police car, she took it in. 

As the animals kept coming in, she admits, “It started with the goats the day after we moved in. Then it snowballed into this. We got into the rescue world.”

This, as she explains, was the formation of a farm pet animal rescue called Happy Hearts and Hooves.

One of the first animals was the alpaca, which was emaciated with no hair, neglected and pregnant. Now they have eight alpacas. 

“It bothered me and fueled my passion for farm animals to have a good life,” Kaitie says.

A common “hooved” pet that is given up are pigs. The sanctuary has 14 of them. Several are small breed, which were formerly kept as pets. 

“A mini teacup pig — people think it would be super cute and small. People misunderstand how large the pet gets. They can weigh up to 200 pounds. There’s a need for homes for (pet) pigs,” she explains.

Some folks might think, why not harvest the animal? She stresses they are a no-kill shelter. Pigs are the Lagans’ favorite animal. 

“They love belly rubs. Our biggest is 700 pounds — very massive. But they are the most gentle, kindest pigs we have,” says Kaitie. 

Greg says he grew up with traditional pets and a horse. Greg’s mom was a veterinarian for domestic animals. Now he has unique pets. 

“You can still have the same relationship with farm animals. They greet you just like a cat or dog,” he says.

As an established nonprofit, they accept donations specifically for the alpaca fiber and manure to offset expenses. They host school kids, yoga classes and groups for private tours. 

The cost of maintaining the animals is expensive. They eat 50 pounds of food every three days. Cleaning up and feeding takes a lot of time. Yet, they do it for the pure love of animals. 

“It’s seeing people who have never touched a pig or an alpaca. Seeing our kids build a relationship with animals helps teach them compassion and responsibility,” says Kaitie.

As an animal lover, it’s Kaitie’s goal for the animals to live a full life. 

“It was never on my radar to rescue animals. I didn’t realize the need. It’s so worth it. I’m making a difference for the ones here,” she reflects. “God’s creatures are invaluable.” ♦

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