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Megan Pereira’s love for animals has grown into Road to Refuge, an animal sanctuary that revolves around rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing animals. (Photo courtesy of Megan Pereira )
Growing up in Naugatuck, Megan Pereira wasn’t exactly raised in a farming community, but when she started riding horses at age 8, she found her passion. She continued riding as she grew up, attending summer camps and then attending the State University of New York-Cobleskill to study animal science.
“I went to college and brought my horse,” says Megan. “I’d been interested in animals my whole life and I knew my love for horses would take me into the field somewhere. I did a lot of internships and that helped me focus because I wasn’t sure where I’d end up.”
Megan did internships in several different specialties, working on rehabilitation for horses with injuries in Colorado, training horses for shows, and working with horses that specialized in rehabilitation with children. It was staying at college through the summer to work on the school’s farm where she found her passion and her “appreciation for farm animals and large animals.”
Megan became a mixed animal vet technician with a bachelor degree in animal science. She now works for a mixed practice in Bethany that focuses on farm animals. Helping animals during business hours wasn’t enough, though.
While she was in school, she adopted her first rescue dog, Sadie, and she was hooked. Working at the veterinary clinic, Megan often hears about animals in trying situations and has seen firsthand that there aren’t many places to turn to for help with farm animals. She rescued her first farm animal in 2016.
“Someone had gotten a goat and it was living in a tub in a New York City penthouse,” says Megan. “When they’re babies, they’re small and cute, but they grow and need outdoor living space.”
Megan named the goat Beans and soon after rescued a goat named Jelly. She and her husband Joe were living in Brookfield, but found they needed more space, and they settled down on a 10-acre farm in North Haven.
Earlier this year, the couple decided to make its rescue an official 501c3. According to its website, roadtorefugeanimalsanctuary.com, “Road to Refuge is committed to removing animals from toxic and/or desperate situations as well as saving animals from slaughter.”
Joe worked on a farm in the summers when he was younger and has always loved dogs. Though he works at Sikorsky, he also works to maintain their property and moves the rescue animals via trailer.
“He’s always very supportive of me,” says Megan. “He always wanted a cow and our first rescue as an organization was a cow from a petting zoo. He really wanted that to happen.”
Road to Refuge recently took in another cow after finding out that there were two male calves in a bad situation at a dairy farm. Megan teamed up with another organization, Sleepy Pig Farms, and each of them rescued a calf.
“The dairy industry is really tough on cows and we found out about a dairy farmer putting small male calves in stressful situations,” says Megan. “They were tied to a cement wall with chains around their necks standing in their own feces. There is no need to treat animals like that. Animals are here with us, not for us.”
Because Megan is a vet tech, she took the sicker of the two cows, who is now called JD and is recovering. Through her job and her work rescuing animals, Megan has built a network of connections in animal rescue. She is often approached by other rescues to help if animals are in need of medical attention.
“I have a little niche in the sanctuary world since I have a medical background,” says Megan. “I’m met so many people who are running sanctuaries and they’ll come to me when they have a rescue that needs a little more attention.”
Road to Refuge is currently fostering a pig, Sara, for Arthur’s Acres as she needed medical attention. Megan will care for Sara for the next month until she is healthy enough to return to Arthur’s Acres.
This spring, they rescued a goat, Peeps, who was born on Easter. Peeps was trampled by a horse and partially paralyzed. Road to Refuge partnered with Yale, which built Peeps a cart.
“Now it’s like she has four legs. We did the care and feeding and worked toward getting the cart and then brought her to Goats of Anarchy, a sanctuary for disabled goats in New Jersey,” says Megan, who also works with other sanctuaries in Connecticut such as Sleepy Pig Farms and Grey Land. “We rely on each other and support each other. It’s sanctuaries supporting sanctuaries.”
Megan not only relies on other sanctuaries, but donors as well as rescuing animals is an expensive endeavor between the grain, hay, bedding, and medical needs. Though she had rescued animals in the past, she is happy to now be operating as a 501c3.
“It’s a place people can help support and donate to enable us to be able to do more,” says Megan. “Without the support of our donors, it wouldn’t be possible. The overwhelming response of support has been fantastic. The more people hear about us and the animals’ stories, the more inclined they are to want to support us.”
Like most sanctuaries, Road to Refuge is closed to the public as many animals have come from stressful or abusive situations. Though members of the public cannot visit, they can follow the animals’ stories through Road to Refuge’s social media pages. The organization also sends photos and updates to donors.
As Megan and her husband both work full-time, much of their time at home is spent caring for the animals and taking care of the sanctuary. Megan starts every day at 5:30 a.m. with farm chores and feeding the animals. After working a full day, she comes home to finish work around the sanctuary and take care of the animals.
“It’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Megan. “I love being around the animals and that I’m helping them. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to hope an animal in need.”
Megan often gets questioned about becoming a rescue and recalls the advice she received from the found of Goats of Anarchy: “You don’t have to be big to save animals.” She stressed that even helping one animal makes a difference.
“If you rescue even two animals, you’re a rescue,” says Megan. “You can use your talents to foster one at a time and you’re still doing that animal a great service by giving it care, food, and love, and placing it in a loving home. If you have love for animals and want to do it, there are a lot of different ways to do it.”
For information, visit www.roadtorefugeanimalsanctuary.com or Road to Refuge Animal Sanctuary on Facebook.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .