Article By Kali Nelson
“Ever since I was a kid, all of my imaginary friends (and most of my loyal real-life companions) were animals. I was always dragging something home: a lost cat, a mangy dog, an injured bird or bunny.”
Like many animal lovers, Kat Krylov always had a dream of running a sanctuary. While for most people that dream remains a fond idea in the back of the mind, for Kat, she made it a reality.
It seemed like an impossible idea until 2017 when, almost by accident, she found the perfect location in Campbellford, Ontario. With her daughter having left for university, Kat found herself with a gap in her life and time on her hands.
When she first started the sanctuary, she had concerns about how she would find the animals. But as often happens with animals and their guardians, her rescues somehow seemed to find her. One of the guys who helped her move into her house had a rooster who was attacking his children and needed a new home – thus, Rebel the rooster became the first rescue.
“And then it just snowballed. Spent hens from the neighbour next door, two draft horses that were left after their owners passed away tragically, sheep that were in imminent danger, a goat that was diagnosed with CAE and would be euthanized… We now have over 90 souls who call this place their safe haven.”
While Kat had some prior horse experience, taking care of farmed animals was entirely new. “I found Facebook groups, did online research, and went to YouTube University to educate myself on the proper care of the residents who found their way to our farm. I’m still and always learning.”
The sanctuary’s most memorable rescue to date has been their two draft horses, Khaleesi and Rhaegal. After their owners died, the horses – one of whom had not been handled at all and was deemed dangerous – needed a safe place to go.
“The farm where they came from was not that far away, and since we don’t have a trailer, I walked one of the girls and the other just followed. That night, finding themselves in an unfamiliar place, they broke through the fence and went back home. All I could do was follow them in my truck to make sure they were okay.” The next day, Kat installed an electric fence before bringing the horses back. “Khaleesi and Rhaegal made fast friends with the rest of the herd and are the true definition of gentle giants.”
Kat explains that the most difficult part of running a sanctuary is also the hardest part of raising a kid as a single mother. “It’s the relentlessness, the constant worrying, except it’s now times 90 because I feel like I have so many more children to worry about. Every time someone is sick or we lose a resident to illness or old age, a part of my heart goes with them.”
“Learning to live with loss for me is learning resilience, so I can keep going and be there for others who are still here and still very much in need. On the flip side, one of the most rewarding experiences is seeing the residents thrive once they know they are safe and loved. It’s sacred and humbling, to develop a bond of trust with an animal.”
While part of Kat wishes she had started this twenty years ago, she says realistically she didn’t have the time or resources then. “Every situation and new resident we take in presents an opportunity for growth and googling.” In addition to crediting resources like The Open Sanctuary Project, she says the strong relationships within the rescue community have been invaluable.
Today, Promised Land Sanctuary is a registered charity. They recently took the Vegan Sanctuary Pledge through PEACE (People Ensuring Animal Care Exists). This is a pledge to support the ethics of veganism and take care not to actively contribute to animal suffering. On top of all that, the sanctuary’s currently working on their GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) accreditation, which guarantees a high standard of animal care.
If she were dreaming big, Kat says she’d like to see the sanctuary expand by 100 acres and be able to hold more animals. “Realistically, we need to grow sustainably and adhere to a plan. Feet on the ground, head in the clouds.”
As for what advice she would offer anyone looking to start their own sanctuary: “Get ready to get your hands permanently dirty, your heart broken open, and to have your bank account start bleeding! Also, find a great chiropractor. Your back will thank you.”
“It’s funny how I always saw myself as an animal lover and yet was a meat-eater for most of my life.” Kat was forty-years-old when she went vegetarian, and she continued to learn about the realities of animal exploitation. Five years later, she went vegan. She acknowledges yoga as part of her journey there.
“One of the main precepts of this practice is Ahimsa, or non-violence. As my practice deepened, I started to question what it would mean for me to live a non-violent life and I couldn’t escape the fact that I was silently condoning it every time I sat down for a meal. If I really wanted inner and outer peace, it had to begin on my plate, along with the kinds of clothes I chose to wear and the types of products I chose to use every single day.”
One of the most important things Kat’s learned since going vegan is how to sustain herself through the ups and downs of animal advocacy. “I learned that a heart can break over and over again and still continue to love. It’s an empty and a full feeling at the same time.” She’s also experimented with some fun vegan recipes. “I’ve learned how to make ridiculously good cabbage lentil stew, which is also pretty filling.”
Like many of us, Kat says she wouldn’t have known what really happens to animals in a slaughterhouse were it not for the activists working to expose the truth. “I admire animal activists. I can’t even bear the sight of a livestock trailer on the highway, and these people bear witness to animal suffering on a regular basis. It is heartbreaking but necessary work.”
“We need people who act in the face of injustice because to do nothing is agreeing with the status quo. These people are compassion in action to me.”
When asked what she’d say to people considering veganism, Kat shared: “Come on over to our side! We don’t bite, plus we’ve got the best cabbage lentil stew!”