Hawkes Homestead Animal Sanctuary, located on a fifth-generation farmstead near New Rockford, N.D., is raising money to apply for nonprofit status through the state and federal government.
Jessica Hawkes, 35, founder of the sanctuary, currently has 125 animals on the property, where she trains, feeds and often re-homes them, giving special accommodations to the ones that need it, she said.
Hawkes has dogs, cats, horses, miniature horses, llamas, goats, chinchillas, crested geckos, parakeet, geese, turkeys, ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, pheasants and fish.
“It all started when I began taking in surrendered chinchillas about eight years ago, since I had a couple of my own and they required special care,” Hawkes said. “When people couldn't keep theirs for whatever reason, I took them in and worked to re-home them and mentor the new owners.”
Hawkes said her farm quickly began acquiring more animals, and her sanctuary became known as a safe place to take unusual animals in need.
“The GoFundMe (page) was the sudden leap into formalizing what I was already doing, to get the support and funds to file the nonprofit paperwork and prepare the space for more animals to come,” she said.
Hawkes and her partner, Mike Scott, perform all the animal chores twice daily, from feeding, watering and cleaning to basic veterinary care, treating wounds, socializing and training. Scott is a former professional horse trainer.
“Some of the animals require special care, either by species, like hand-feeding the gecko twice a week and trimming goat hooves, or by individual, like the injured gosling currently living in my bathroom for rehabilitation before going back out to the flock,” she said.
The fundraiser’s goal is $3,000, and as of July 12, she’s raised around $1,600. Aside from the cost of the paperwork, Hawkes intends to use the money raised to hire an electrician to upgrade the wiring in the century-old barn for the safety of the animals, as well as installing more water tank heaters and heat lamps for the winter.
“We’ve already started the nonprofit paperwork with the state, so federal filing will be next,” Hawkes said. “After that, improving the fencing for the large animal pastures and expanding the winter quarters for the birds and small animals in the barn. They are free range for about eight months, but winters they have to stay out of the snow.”
As for the future of her organization, Hawkes said the possibilities are endless.
“We want to be able to accept more animals and offer pet adoptions,” Hawkes said. “We already do youth tours informally, so keeping that a part of our plan is important to us."
The Hawkes Homestead Animal Sanctuary plans to have a board with professional veterinarians to help with vaccinations, spays and neuters, trauma cases and other special care. Hawkes will have help from a wildlife expert as well as a barnyard animal whisperer, who is an expert in domestic birds, goats and sheep, she said.
“Everything has happened so fast really we are still playing catch-up, so focusing on the most pressing needs now and knowing it will grow to meet the needs of animals in our region,” she said.
The fundraiser can be found at www.gofundme.com/hawkes-homestead-animal-rescue-startup-fund.