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Maintaining sanctuary

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Ralph and Caryl Turner believe in second chances.

That's why they started Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in 1999 to help abandoned, abused and neglected animals live the rest of their lives in a humane environment.

The couple operates on 85 acres of land in the foothills behind Sequim where they keep more than 100 animals - cattle, horses, mules, dogs, wild turkeys, rabbits and more.

Ralph Turner said their animals come from auctions, breeders, dairy farms, state parks and cruel homes.

"The problem is when we get the animals, they aren't always in the best health," Turner said.

Open house

The Turners say that the economic crunch has affected them like many nonprofits with decreasing donations and volunteers.

That's why they are hosting a open house from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 17.

Last year, more than 50 people toured the facility and either signed up as volunteers or donated to help with veterinary bills and/or feed.

Caryl said a lot of visitors were local and that there is plenty for people to see and learn.

Early birds

The Turners, Seattle-area natives, have been invested in animal rights most of their lives through local, state and national animal protection issues.

Turner remembers his first activism, having a letter published in a Seattle newspaper in his early 20s when he was opposed to an exotic-animal taxidermist coming to town.

Caryl remembers signing petitions around that time in favor of outlawing fur trapping.

In their day jobs, Turner was director of security for 186 Safeway stores and Caryl worked as an administrator for engineering firms.

Creating sanctuary

Inspiration for Precious Life Animal Sanctuary came from years of animal rights activism but also from one 3-week-old calf.

The Turners rescued Buddy from a fair's petting zoo before the calf went to auction for slaughter.

They adopted Buddy and felt they needed to help more animals in trouble by providing a safe home.

"I feel privileged with the animals we do have, for them to live out their natural lives," Turner said.

"This world is more than just for us living in it."

Making mountains

The Turners have gone to great lengths to provide for unwanted animals.

They've created a one-of-a-kind bunny sanctuary for more than 100 rabbits from Seattle parks through financial support from Seattle Parks and Friends of Park Rabbits.

The 1-acre shelter houses rabbits that people released into the parks. It is completely predator proof with a netted ceiling and chain link fencing and concrete placed underground.

Turner said he's not sure if there's any sanctuary like it in the U.S.

They've also taken in controversial wild turkeys from LaConner.

The once popular birds served as a tourist attraction but townspeople complained after a few years and city councilors debated on whether to kill the birds or move them.

Turner said the town's mayor favored a humane transfer to the Sequim sanctuary. The turkeys now are housed in a safe facility with room to fly.

Blessings and practicality

The Turners obviously have a big place in their hearts for animals.

"We feel blessed to have these animals," Caryl said.

However, the couple says they only have so much energy, time and facilities for all their animals with fewer donations and volunteers coming in.

"With a financial crisis, we could fill this place with horses," Caryl said.

When people call them to drop off animals like horses, they must decide if the animal truly needs rescuing or if the owner is being negligent.

Recently, an alpaca farm in Victoria, British Columbia, contacted them about taking their animals but the Turners are unsure it isn't because the alpaca market has shrunk.

"We don't want to get overloaded," Caryl said.

"We want to be able to take care of what we have."

Right now, the Turners have about 25 farm animals, one hog, several turkeys, about 100 rabbits, two Saint Bernard and four Great Pyrenees dogs and about eight feral cats.

Precious Life Animal Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Visit www.preciouslifeanimalsanctuary.org or call 582-1437.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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