Anyone who has ever loved and cared for an animal knows that they have so much to teach people and that the immeasurable bond created between people and animals can be life-changing. The Gentle Barn Animal Sanctuary in Santa Clarita, CA enriches this bond by offering comprehensive and often alternative treatments (like acupuncture!) for its 170 rescue animals — and by providing programs that benefit children from the inner-city, living in foster homes, or with special needs. Founded by Ellie Laks, whose own experiences with animals helped her throughout her childhood and inspired her career path as an adult, The Gentle Barn has seen over 400,000 visitors in its fifteen year history and has served as the home for hundreds of animals who have been deemed otherwise unadoptable.

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Image via The Gentle Barn

The goats, dogs, cats, donkeys, horses and other animals that form The Gentle Barn menagerie benefit from the loving and caring environment at the farm sanctuary, but many are enlisted for a higher calling: to help educate and bond with children, including at-risk youth and children with special needs. Schools and groups of all sorts have benefited from spending time at The Gentle Barn, with children learning how to play with, care for (tummy rubs and fur brushing galore), and communicate with these patient animals. Kids from troubled backgrounds including abuse and neglect can especially relate to the experiences of many of the animals who end up at The Gentle Barn. From developing relationships with these animals, they learn about trust, love, respecting other living beings, and forging their own bonds. Lucky locals can arrange for private tours, Sunday visits, birthday parties, or field trips. The rest of us can peruse The Gentle Barn’s Instagram pictures or sponsor an animal or a group of children.

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+ The Gentle Barn

Lead image via Shutterstock