WILLIAMSBURG — What started with a bachelor living in a condo who wanted to save a pig has grown into an entire farm animal sanctuary where pigs, cows, sheep, fowl, dogs and humans now live together in harmony.
Ryan Phillips adopted Pumpkin, a former breeder pig, along with one of her offspring, Charlotte, when their previous owner decided to move out of state. Phillips took the pair to live in his second-floor space with a strict no-pet policy, carrying them up and down the stairs, much to the chagrin of neighbors.
Eventually, the trio grew to include another pig, Millie, a rabbit, a dog and finally a chicken before Phillips knew they needed more space.
“I would take them out to play in the green areas in front of the condo and I made it work but, the Rhode Island Red chicken was sort of the end,” chuckles Phillips, “I just couldn’t carry three pigs and a chicken down a flight of stairs, watch them and then cart them all back up the stairs. Plus, pigs hate being carried and Millie would scream.”
Phillips’s love for animals grew as well, with him eventually adopting Jenna the cow. Phillips posted Jenna on social media, where they caught the attention of his future wife, Mallory Phillips.
“I lived in Arizona and started following Ryan’s Facebook page. I thought he was cute and his cow was cute. And, I thought, ‘gosh, I wish I could find a guy like that,’ having no idea that eventually we would actually end up together,” recalls Mallory, “One day, Ryan was asking for help on social media to save a cow, and since I was an animal activist, too, I reached out to offer assistance, and the rest is history.”
The couple and their brood now live on the outskirts of Williamsburg and operate the sanctuary. Their mission is to provide forever homes to the barnyard animals that may not have had the opportunity at a full life, while using the space to help educate others about them.
“Our animals are ambassadors. We want to do more tours and events. We are also doing Outschool classes for kids and want to expand into more educational opportunities,” said Mallory, “We want more people to come and visit, meet the animals and share their stories.”
Pulling up to Life With Pigs Farm Animal Sanctuary, one will most likely be greeted by the infamous Jenna the cow poking her head out from the gate to see who has arrived, followed by the rousing sounds of Quincy, the self-proclaimed head-turkey-in-charge.
While the name refers to their life with pigs, the sanctuary is home to animals of all species and its mission is to provide happy homes to as many animals in need as it can. It can get expensive having so many mouths to feed, so the sanctuary relies on donations and pledges.
Living together as a family unit, Mallory says, “Every animal has their own personality and vibe different with each other. The amount of bird drama that goes on daily you would not expect. The sheep can be shy but they hang out with Annie, our dwarf cow.”
Running the sanctuary can be hard work but, but Ryan is the first to say that getting to wake up every day and see happy animals makes it all worth it.
“Knowing they are here, happy and living their best lives while at the same time, knowing we reach people as far as New Zealand who can see a cow play like a dog and get to know her personality. It changes their version of how a cow is supposed to be seen,” Ryan concludes, “It feels good to make an impact while doing something you truly love.”
The public is invited to come out to the sanctuary for a monthly public tour and to learn more about the animals the Phillips’ have rescued. The animals and humans enjoy the company. Reservations are required.