The Owl & The Pussy Cat. A Sanctuary of love

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The Byron Bay region of Australia is picturesque and has long been synonymous with alternative lifestyles, down to earth people, and more recently a string of Hollywood celebrities moving in. It seems a fitting place to find The Owl and The Pussy Cat Farm Animal Sanctuary, which can be found in Crabbes Creek, a largely undiscovered coastal paradise in New South Wales, Australia. Located only 10 mins to unspoilt beaches, along a traditional country road through lush pastureland, creeks and rainforest, B Starbright was able to buy an affordable property on which to build her dream.

B (her real name) is the founder of her family run sanctuary, The Owl and the Pussy Cat Farm, providing a loving haven for neglected, starved or unwanted farm animals, situated on the 130-acre property that she and her partner Finn purchased three years ago. Though B had thought she would start a sanctuary much later down the track, it seems the animals had other ideas.

The animals found me,” B explains, “especially during the bushfires when we evacuated a lot of animals, as well as humans, to the safety of the Sanctuary. A number of the animals stayed on to become permanent residents due to owners struggling in the drought.”

B and her family were no strangers to bushfires, having lost everything themselves during

the devastating 2009 Black Saturday Kinglake bushfires in the state of Victoria. Seven years

ago, after growing increasingly anxious every summer as bushfire season loomed, B and her

family decided to make the move to New South Wales.

“So, in November 2019, when the fires were really bad in the Northern Rivers, I knew we needed to help as much as we could, even just for my own mental health!” B’s favourite evacuation was a donkey family, and their humans, which included a three-week-old baby donkey she affectionately calls baby Bonnie. As Bonnie was too small to safely ride in a horse float, B allowed her to ride in the back of her car.

“It was a crazy, intense time, but I was so grateful that we were in a position to help.” B’s love of animals is so evident as she tells me that every animal to have come through the gates of the sanctuary has a unique personality and a story to tell.

B and her partner Finn have two daughters and have been fortunate enough to welcome another couple who are live-in caretakers at the Sanctuary.

“My partner and I are actually graphic designers,” she explains, “and it’s this work that is funding the     sanctuary. We spend our days juggling paid work, when we can get it, the kids and the residents.”

The sanctuary is entirely self-funded, relying on donations and a recent $1000 grant that The Owl and The Pussy Cat was awarded which allowed them to fix their horse float. Like many businesses through the global pandemic, the sanctuary has been hit hard also. Taking care of the animals as well as the large property comes at a cost.

“We’re really struggling at the moment due to COVID,” B discloses, “but on the bright side, the huge downturn in work has given me more time to work with our rescue animals.” Using the money they make in the corporate sector keep the sanctuary going, which is completely off grid. Even the power saw is powered by the sun.

B grew up in Australia but spent most of the 90s in London working on magazines before returning home in the early 2000s and met Finn after a move to Melbourne about 19 years ago. She has always been a passionate animal lover and is her passion for providing a safe and loving home to the animals at the sanctuary is evident. She has dreams that in the future she will be working full time at the sanctuary, caring for the animals as well as the huge task that goes along with managing the pastures, fencing, and building the Sanctuary. They hope they will be able to access some support which would allow them to provide a home for even more permanent and foster residents and to build a huge, off-grid barn. They have recently applied for charity status.

The stories of the animals B shares are heart-warming. Two horses who reside at the sanctuary, Solstice and King Winter, were just babies when they were herded onto a truck, along with 50 of their family members, bound for the slaughter yards. With only 30 minutes to spare before dog meat traders bought them, enough money was raised to outbid the traders, known as ‘doggers’ and the two horses were saved.  B tells me there is a massive over-breeding problem here in Australia, and most parts of the world) which sadly leads to ending up unwanted and sent to slaughter houses.

Another successful rescue story is that of little Jasper, an older Shetland pony. When he first came into B’s care, Jasper wouldn’t allow anyone to touch him. Jasper had a chronic eye infection in both of his eyes. With a lot of patience, love and treats, they were able to gently bathe and treat his eyes. it didn’t take long before they were completely healed and he was a much happier pony.

“We couldn’t get near him without him kicking with his hind legs, but it was because he was

living in constant pain.”

The youngest resident to arrive at the sanctuary to date is Peppi, a male calf who was just five days old when he arrived. Male calves are often referred to as ‘bobby calves’ and are sadly considered a burden in the dairy industry. Peppi came to the Sanctuary along with his cousin, Sunny, and was gravely ill due to the negligence of a scam artist masquerading as an animal rescuer. The calves had been taken away from their mothers at a very young age. They share the farm with Twinkle Toes, another cow and his three-generation family after

being surrendered by a macadamia farmer who no longer had a place for them during the drought. Twinkle Toes is a lover of cuddles.

“Cows are such gentle beings. Once they feel safe and you gain their trust, they love nothing more than cuddles. They also love to be sung to, especially gentle lullabies!”

Many of the chickens and ducks who now call the Sanctuary home were rescued from intensive farming situations where they never saw the light of day. A number of the ducks had never even seen a body of water before arriving at the farm. Now they are able to swim, splash and wander. Despite many arriving with chronic health issues, all of the

sanctuary’s feathered family are now in great health and spend their days free ranging and foraging across the paddocks and dams.

Along with Gemma, a gentle ex-racehorse in her mid-thirties, and Dusty, an Australian wild horse called a Brumby, the latest arrivals to the farm include Ebon, a 23-year-old horse, two goats, two sheep, three huge cows, a family of ducks, some hens, and a little bottle-feeding bobby calf called Surya. 

Visitors to the Sanctuary have an opportunity to hear the stories of the animals and connect with them in really personal ways. Although only minutes from the highway, the Sanctuary really does feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of life with fresh sea breezes, super clean water, expansive open spaces and happy, relaxed animals roaming free.

“It’s so amazing watching visitors interact with the animals. They have such different experiences and many have been quite life changing! “

The story of the Owl and the Pussy Cat Farm is a tale about following your heart and passion. B hopes that through the sanctuary, more people are becoming aware that many animals need to be rescued, for a variety of reasons.

B hopes to spread the “adopt, don’t shop” mantra, encouraging responsible and well thought out pet ownership, conscious consumerism of animal products and environmentally conscious farming practices.

For the animals at the Owl and the Pussy Cat, there has been a happy ending as they live out

their days roaming freely and supported with love by their human family.

To support, or donate to the Owl and the Pussy Cat Farm Animal Sanctuary, or to subscribe

to their monthly newsletters, visit

http://www.owlandpussycatfarm.com.au

To visit the farm, please check their website for opening hours and further details.

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Sandy is a writer, creative and podcaster based in Melbourne’s west. She is the proud mother of her three adult children. She has always been passionate about women’s rights and celebrating the diversity of women having been raised by a proud disabled feminist mother herself. As the founder and Creative Director of Wb40 – Women Beyond Forty Magazine, she’s had a diverse and interesting career that has seen her wear various hats – business owner, manager, coordinator, writer, blogger and creative. She has never been afraid to challenge herself and has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. If “Wb40” reminds you of another thing entirely Sandy jokes that it’s the lubricant for your mind! In this world, representation matters, and right now in the publishing world, women over forty are not well represented. Sandy has been that woman fighting for her voice to be heard. As a mother, a single parent keeping her head above water, a business owner and a corporate worker. Although her background is diverse, the one constant is a desire to help others, to build a community, to give back and to bring people together. The journey of Wb40 – Women Beyond Forty, is not an accident. Sandy started an award-nominated blog back in 2013 which changed and evolved and has an established community of amazing women who are proud members of a tribe — industry leaders, creatives, disruptors, authors, survivors, inspirational keynote speakers, disability advocates and activists, teachers, nurses, doctors — many who are well known and respected in their fields. Women who, just like her, are seeking change in the world, and understand that the collective wisdom of women can make a positive difference in the world. When she reached out to women with her vision for Wb40 and her podcast The Good Girl Confessional, their collective enthusiasm, advice and encouragement was overwhelmingly positive and was honoured that they offered advice, their knowledge, time and expertise. They wanted to share their stories and write for Wb40. All of them without question wanted to be involved, believing in the vision but also understanding the need for such a platform. When Sandy couldn’t find the platform was looking for, with help from some friends, she created it here. Let’s start a revolution.