Karen Phillips sees many abused, neglected and abandoned animals in her work as a shelter veterinarian.
But it is the farm animals that bother her the most. The shelters that care for animals simply weren't equipped to provide proper care for farm animals.
"They don't have the facilities to take care of chickens or piglets. They would have to put them in dog runs, next to barking dogs and that would traumatize them even more," she said.
Those cases were the reason Ms. Phillips decided to create a safe place for farm animals. She recently opened Hope Haven, a nonprofit dedicated to providing a "forever home" for small farm animals in Franklin Park.
It was natural for her to become a veterinarian, she said. Growing up in rural Vermont, her family had a lot of land and animals.
"I had more animals for friends than other children," she said."People would just always say, 'Oh, you want to be a vet.' I never altered from that thought."
After she finished her undergraduate degree in her home state, she went to veterinarian school at the University of Pennsylvania in west Philadelphia. When she became a veterinarian, she starting looking for a new home.
"I knew I didn't want to go back to Vermont -- the winters were just too cold," she said. "But Philly really wasn't for me, either."
A friend had family in Pittsburgh and the two thought they would look at the area for a job after vet school. As it turned out, Ms. Phillips signed a contract to work at a private practice while her friend ended up moving elsewhere.
"The job wasn't a good fit. I liked being a relief vet more than working in private practice. It was when I started doing shelter work that I felt like I really connected. It felt necessary for me to do that type of work," she said.
Now eight years later, Ms. Phillips is still specializing in shelter work as a spay and neuter veterinarian. She works at the major shelters in the Pittsburgh area.
The idea for Hope Haven started in the back of her mind in 2008, she said, but she didn't find the property she was looking for until 2011.
"I wanted somewhere that had enough property for the animals to be safe and comfortable, but I wanted to be close to the city so people could come visit and be educated about the animals," she said.
Ms. Phillips bought her 8-acre abandoned farm and began refurbishing and renovating the buildings and cleaning up the land so she could move animals to the property.
"I don't think I knew what I was getting into when I bought this land because it took a lot more work than I expected to get it into shape," she said.
Ms. Phillips opened the shelter in April but hopes to host a grand opening soon. She has seven pigs; more than 35 types of poultry, including chickens, ducks, turkey and peacocks; and her own two indoor cats and two dogs. She is expecting to get two alpacas.
Her farm doesn't allow full-sized horses or cattle, but she hopes to have miniature horses.
Ms. Phillips is seeking volunteers and donations to assist her with the shelter. Volunteers are needed to help with clearing the land and caring for the animals.
In addition to providing a home and medical care for farm animals, Ms. Phillips hopes to serve as an educational resource for the community. She will host farm tours and plans to visit schools.
"I want to change the 'throw-away mentality' that some people have when it comes to pets and animals," she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: email@example.com.