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Zoom and animals: A novel way to save a sanctuary

Image: Simone Panepinto Photography

THE pet adoption boom experienced during government-mandated lockdowns of 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, generated much-needed funds for animal shelters.

Animal sanctuaries, usually located in regional areas, that had previously relied on people physically attending the property and provide funds, struggled to find financial support during the lockdowns.

Galahad’s Sanctuary in Central Victoria and its owner, Ms Lynne McAlister, had to get creative when the pandemic halted the financial income streams the sanctuary relied on to support expenses such as feed, paddock maintenance and vet bills.

Unstable economic conditions for people over the past two years diverted many individuals’ financial commitments from donations to charities.

“I was looking at innovative ways to get funding and obviously with the pandemic thought, Zoom meetings!” Ms McAlister said.

Zoom calls with the sanctuary are often set up as a surprise for meeting participants.

“All of a sudden they will have Milkshake, my camel, on the screen,” Ms McAlister said.

“It is just a ten-minute break from Zoom meeting hell that you can have every so often.”

A large bucket of carrots and apples keep the animals engaged for the 10-15 minutes when Ms McAlister talks about the sanctuary and the particular animal that appears.

Image: Nicole Cleary Photography

The pandemic has caused the biggest change to the way we have work over the last fifty years, through a shift to work from home for ‘knowledge’ jobs centred in the CBD of our biggest cities.

“In less than two years we have gone from less than 8 percent of Australians working from home to 40 per cent, Chairman of the Productivity Commission Michael Brennan said.

“While this percentage may not always remain so high it is inevitable that more Australians will work from home.”

Working from home has shifted economic activity from the CBD and distributed it to suburban and regional areas, creating changes to the economy.

These economic activities shape Australian cities and how people spend money.

Galahad’s Sanctuary, located in the Macedon Ranges in Central Victoria, rescues and rehabilitates farm animals from various circumstances within the animal agriculture industries.

Ms McAlister, inspired by her beloved Irish Wolfhound, Galahad, who brought joy to people through pet therapy at the Royal Children’s Hospital, founded the sanctuary.

A change in Ms McAlister’s situation before the pandemic forced her to find more financially sustainable ways to make the sanctuary viable.

Currently home to about 46 animals, the sanctuary has cared for alpacas, sheep, cows, chickens, dogs, horses and camels.

The sanctuary opened a B&B, gave tours and camping adventures via hip camp, which meant new fences had to be built to accommodate the previously free roaming animals on the property.

“It has been very hard because a lot of the time in lockdown I haven’t been able to have anyone in the B&B or conduct tours,” Ms McAlister said.

“The sanctuary pretty much revolves around my salary and my savings.”

Image: Nicole Cleary Photography

Eager to get out of the confines of homes, home offices and the restricted travel zones, the B&B has had people stay every weekend since the lockdowns ended.

Camping at the property has also been very popular, with 20 nurses recently camping in the paddock at the sanctuary.

When guests arrive at the sanctuary’s B&B, Ms McAlister gives a tour and introduces each of the animal’s stories.

“A lot of people are shocked, mostly by the sheep,” Ms McAlister said.

“They are all bottle babies, and they are just like dogs who just want love and pats and Weet-bix.

“People are quite shocked by their individual personalities.

“They do not expect that.”

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Patricia Jenkins

Patricia has been involved with many charities and not for profits, both local and global. Her undergraduate studies in International Studies, combined with experiences from living, working and travelling overseas has given her a unique perspective of both global and local issues. Patricia has spent time working at a Media Production House in China, and holds post graduate qualifications in Film & TV (Producing), and Journalism. She has always been involved with organisations that aim to create social and environmental awareness, impact and change.

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