Lola DeVonne has been rescuing animals since the age of five. “Much to my Mom’s chagrin, it was something new everyday–frogs, turtles, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas,” said the co-founder of Have a Heart Ranch, who originally hails from Coconut Grove, Florida. “All kinds of animals were showing up on my doorstep … I would hide them under my bed and take care of them.”
Realizing that she had a passion for rehabilitating all creatures great and small–a dream with which her own family did not empathize–DeVonne ran away from home at the age of 15 and was “adopted” into a new family who shared her devotion. “I now had these two little sisters, who were on the same frequency,” said DeVonne of twins Victoria and Elizabeth East, 12.
The sisters began populating their then Malibu-based home with rescues, but DeVonne soon realized they were outgrowing their space and moved to their current four-acre ranch in Old Agoura three months ago. Unlike a traditional shelter, Have a Heart takes in all kinds of animals, from surrenders (those who can no longer be cared for by owners who still want to visit) to injured and sick animal rescues. “Some cases I see are emotionally draining for me,” said DeVonne, who became Vegan as a result of observing how factory farmed and even certain organically farmed animals are treated. “But it’s rewarding to watch them heal.”
Most of the facility’s animals are not eligible for adoption due to the expense of their upkeep, she said.
The Ranch not only takes in animals but people who need recovery. They offer equine therapy programs for US military veterans suffering from PTSD, children with special needs and people of all ages who are battling life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. “It’s become a whole community,” said DeVonne.
DeVonne hopes to move on to a new phase of expansion with the addition of updated horse stalls but relies solely on volunteers and charitable donations. On Saturday, she held their first fundraiser, an all-day Easter celebration complete with food, music and “petting area.”
“People are more than happy to help us, which is so beautiful, because they share that same passion for animal rescue and animal rights and compassionate lifestyle as we do,” said DeVonne.
To get involved and for more information about the ranch, to www.haveaheartranch.com.