The intake process at HEEFS

We wish we could save them all

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing abused, neglected, and abandoned farmed animals. Our goal is to provide a safe, life-long home for all of our residents, and to educate the public about the true nature of farmed animals through tours, volunteer programs and community outreach. As a Sanctuary, one of the most common questions we get asked is:

How do you decide which animals to rescue?

Deciding which farmed animal to rescue is one of the hardest decisions we make, and sadly, it is something we are faced with almost daily. Not only is the decision heart-wrenching, but it is also multi-faceted.

In an effort to prevent this article from being too long, we will hone in on the two main criteria that we consider: the law; and our ability to make a lifetime commitment.

First, The Law

While HEEFS became a registered corporation on June 6, 2014, it took quite some time, and a lot of hard work, to become a registered charity operating in Canada. This designation was important to us because we wanted to ensure that we were able to provide you with tax receipts for your generous gifts. It is these gifts that allow us to take the best care possible of our residents.

To be considered a charity in Canada, an organization must fall within one of more of the following four categories:

•        The relief of poverty

•        The advancement of education

•        The advancement of religion

•        Other purposes beneficial to the community as a whole in way which the law regards as charitable[1]

While HEEFS did not fall under the first three, we did fall under the fourth. And, to ensure that we continue to be able to offer you tax receipts, we must maintain our charitable status by acting in accordance with the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act, Canada Revenue Agency Regulations, the Income Tax Act, and common law.

As a public benefit organization[2] HEEFS must ensure that our “purposes and activities”[3] provide a tangible benefit to the public as a whole, or at least to a sufficient section of the public. There are specific “tests” in place to ensure that we meet this requirement, and we are ever diligent that we continue to meet these requirements in everything that we do. As part of these requirements, the law prevents us from taking in stolen animals, or from taking in animals that are meant for the food supply chain. At first blush this may not seem right, but Canada's animal welfare laws allow for animals to be used for generally accepted agricultural practices, which includes processing them as food. Preventing farm animals from being processed for food is therefore not, as a rule, charitable, and would be violation of the law.

We are, however, permitted to:

  • “maintain(ing) a sanctuary for aging, dangerous, displaced, unhealthy, or former farm animals”[4]

And, one more very important excerpt from the “Frequently Asked Questions” section is:

  • Question: “Is it charitable to promote the welfare of animals by preventing farm animals such as cows or pigs from being slaughtered and marketed for human consumption?[5]

  • Answer: No. Canada's animal welfare laws allow for animals to be used for generally accepted agricultural practices, which includes processing them as food. Preventing farm animals from being processed for food is therefore not, as a rule, charitable.”

Second, Making a Lifetime Commitment

We noted above that we consider two things, the second of which is our own ability to commit to our existing residents before we expand that commitment to anyone else.

The main considerations here are:

  •         Do we have enough indoor and outdoor space for a new resident?

  •         Is there a group or herd that the resident can join?

  •         Do we have enough money to support their lifetime care?

  •         Do they require any special care that we would not be able to provide?

  •         Do we have enough room to store adequate amounts of both hay and straw over the winter both for their bedding and for their consumption?

  •         Are our staff able to provide top notch care to another resident?

We cannot stress enough that the continued well-being and care of our current residents is always the primary consideration when a new resident is brought to HEEFS.

Our Process

  1. All animal intake requests come to us via an online questionnaire.

  2. This questionnaire is first reviewed by the President of the Board of Directors for HEEFS.

  3. If the President of the Board feels that it does not meet the legal test, or that we would not be able to meet our current commitment to our residents, the request is sent to Esther’s Army. Many of the requests they receive can be resolved through methods such as providing guidance and assistance to the current animal caregiver or rehoming to a better-suited environment.

4. If the President of the Board feels that the request meets the legal test, and that we might be able to make a lifetime commitment to the animal at HEEFS, the request is considered by the full Board of Directors. From there it will proceed to the Executive Director of HEEFS. If all parties agree, then we will bring the animal to live out their life with us!

Once again, we truly wish we could rescue them all. Alas, the only way that we know how to truly rescue them all is to leave them off our plates!

If any of you have any questions about any aspect of this article, please feel free to reach out to me directly at

Krista Hiddema

President, Board of Directors

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary