Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

By Lauren Sable Freiman

She was the owner of a successful Akron-based advertising agency and bridal shop, but her true dream was to live in the country and own a horse. Annette Bragg fulfilled that dream by purchasing a nine-acre farm in Ravenna and buying a horse. In fact, in the past 17 years, she has cared for more than 5,000 farm animals, including 500 horses.

After moving to the country, Bragg says she met a woman at a tack swap, and they began comparing notes about how hard it is to find someone to care for horses when the owner goes away. Bragg offered to care for the woman’s animals while she went on vacation. That was when she stumbled upon Janice, a pot-bellied pig in poor living conditions that appeared to have broken legs.

“When the lady finally got back, she said what do I owe you, and I said how about your crippled pot-bellied pig,” Bragg says. “I took her to the vet and found out that we could keep her comfortable and give her a good home, so working for that lady ended up costing me $280 for x-rays and vet care.”

But the experience had Bragg pondering what happens when humane societies find farm animals in need of rescue. Most organizations are not set up to care for them, so Bragg says they would turn a blind eye to the abuse or euthanize the animals. The idea for Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary was born in 1999, and the organization earned its 501(c)(3) status in 2000.

DSCF1321“We created Happy Trails as a support organization so no county in Ohio could say they couldn’t take those farm animals,” Bragg says. “When they do run across those cases, they can call us and we can help out. We don’t want to be Ohio’s best kept secret.”

At first, Happy Trails was taking in abandoned animals while the owners walked away with no consequence. Then, Bragg says, Happy Trails informed law enforcement that they would only take in animals if criminal charges were filed against their owners.

“Not only are we helping to end the cycle of abuse, but we can ask for a mental health evaluation in cases like hoarding and get that person help as well as the animals,” Bragg says. “Most of our cases are tied in with other crimes. We’ve seen everything from child abuse to statutory rape to illegal firearms, drugs, elder abuse, and theft. You name it, and it is connected with the animal abuse cases. We address animal abuse for the sake of the animals (and) for the safety of our communities as well.”

Happy Trails cares for confiscated farm animals, everything from chickens, pigs, cows, and emu to horses, goats, buffalo, and alpaca during the court case against the owner, then works with rescue organizations across the country to place the animals with adoptive families as family pets.

DSCF1327“If an animal is treated badly enough to come to us, that’s his ticket for a good life,” Bragg says. “When we find a good home, we will find a way to get the animal to that home, wherever it is.”

Despite witnessing some of the worst of society and the results of their actions on a daily basis, Bragg says her work has been fulfilling and impactful. Fifteen states have requested assistance from Happy Trails over the years and close to 95 percent of the animals that have come through Happy Trails have been adopted out to loving owners.

“Sometimes it is tougher than others,” Bragg says. “I see the worst of society but I turn around and look at the people who run our rescue crews, and the best and the worst is there at the same time. You see the balance.”

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