SALEM, Ohio — Every person has a story to tell. Some will tell you they don’t, but there is always a story.
At the Forever Safe Farm, the same is true about the animals that have been rescued over the years.
On McCracken Road in Salem, the Campf family began Forever Safe Farm after they both began rescuing dogs and rehabilitating them.
Rob started his rescue life by rescuing pitbulls and his wife, Karrin, was also involved in rescuing animals from an early age.
The two met and realized they had a mutual love for animals. They started rescuing dogs together and their efforts now includes camels, coatimundi, wallabies, pot belly pigs and a zebra.
Zimbabwe, or Zimmy for short, is a zebra that was a rescue from a zebra breeding farm. They were breeding for females and instead Zimmy, the boy, was born. The farm couldn’t keep him because their stud would attack him. Lucky for him, the farm didn’t want to sell him through the exotic trade and instead asked Forever Safe Farm to take him.
As Karrin talks about the animals and the tribulations they have faced, she smiles as they come to her and show her affection.
Next to the miniature horses and pony is a pen for the five camels that reside on the farm. Arthur, Mongo, Sydney, Eli-fuzzybutt and Abu chomp on their pelleted feed and grass hay as Karrin chats with me. There are two dromedaries, one bactrian and two hybrids (a cross between the two).
Karrin said they were worried at first that camels could be a challenge to take care of. But they read up, sought veterinary advice, and now take care of the five of them.
She said one of the camels was brought in as a baby. He had been bought by an exotic dealer and another person bought him from them. Soon after, the person realized he didn’t have the ability to feed him. The camel wouldn’t eat when he arrived and cried out for his mother. After constant attention, the camel finally learned to eat the diet, and he now lives in the herd.
Another animal on the farm is Rudy, the whitetail deer. Rudy was born on a deer and elk farm that raised them for hunting. An elk stepped on his leg as a baby and it had to be amputated. The farm called the sanctuary and Rudy found a home.
And then there is the coatimundi, in an enclosure in back of the Campf’s home.
The brother and sister (they are spayed and neutered) were surrendered by a lady in Arkansas. She had attempted to declaw them herself and infection set in. She couldn’t find a veterinarian to help her. She called the Forever Safe Farm and they were flown into the Cleveland Airport and taken to the Akron Zoo.
They were given antibiotics and bone marrow transplants because the infection was so bad. Today, they live in the enclosure, have human contact and enjoy eating scrambled eggs and fig cookies.
They also have one other trait that is a little bit different, they enjoy smelling perfume.
Each animal, whether it is a goat, zebra or camel, has a story to tell about how it arrived at the farm.
Learn from others mistakes. Now the family concentrates on feeding the animals and providing a home for each one. Karrin also hopes that by having the public tour the facility they will learn how the exotic animal trade hurts animals.
“So many are bought as babies when they think they are cute and then when they take them home, they realize they don’t have the appropriate housing or ability to take care of them once they get a little older,” said Karrin.
The Forever Safe Farm Animal Education Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation operated exclusively for charitable purposes. The facility also has full-time caretakers who concentrate on the animals well-being. There is a gift shop being created in the main facility for others to purchase caps or mugs, and the money will be used to fund the food and housing of the animals.
The farm is not done expanding or helping animals. Karrin explained that they want to build a chimpanzee sanctuary on the farm.
“My real love is chimps,” said Karrin.
There are 10 accredited sanctuaries in the United States and the Campfs are hoping to be the next one. They have began fundraising, but a lot more is needed.
Karrin explained that $1.3 million is needed to build what is essentially a maximum security prison with the most enhancement you can provide for chimpanzees, including a trapeze for them to entertain themselves.
Karrin has been working with a veterinarian from a Chicago zoo who studies primates, and has the plans almost completed for the building. She is using his knowledge to ensure it is safe for the chimps and humans.
She explained chimps that live in laboratories reside in 5-by-5-by-7 foot cement cells. There is legislation in Congress that will require labs to release the chimps and new facilities will be needed to house them.
Karrin said she likes chimps because they have 98.6 percent of the human DNA and can feel emotions like anger, joy and even suffering.
“We are the only country on the planet still testing on them. Do you believe that? It’s because the others have figured out how smart they are and how human like they can be,” she said.
She said the goal of Forever Safe Farm is not to be a roadside zoo, but an educational center.
Karrin said she hopes the work her family does, including her three daughters, helps prevent unwanted animals by teaching people about spaying and neutering.
“It’s about the commitment. You have got to commit to be passionate about an animal’s needs,” she added.