Looking for a place to dock: Cloa’s Ark in Hadley seeks permanent home

  • Claudine Veistroffer cuts up donated vegetables to feed the animals at Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Patrick Veistroffer feeds the animals at Cloa's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alex Atwater, a visitor to Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Hadley, pets one of the goats on the property. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Claudine Veistroffer cuts up donated vegetables to feed the animals that are part of Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Two of the animals at Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Patrick Veistroffer, founder and owner with is wife Claudine Veistroffer, of Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, talks with Alex Atwater who walked down from Pulse Cafe to see the animals. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

HADLEY — Three large cows, 18 goats and one sheep are living the good life in a nearly 2-acre enclosed field between the Norwottuck Rail Trail and Pulse Cafe, getting hay and grains each day as well as fruits and vegetables donated by a local supermarket.

Each of the farm animals is assured of getting plenty of care and attention, and the most comfortable experience, as they spend the remainder of their natural lives at the Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.

But even though the animal sanctuary for rescued farm animals that have been abused and neglected calls itself the “land of permanent miracles for many animals,” owners Patrick and Claudine Veistroffer recognize the challenges they will continue to face until they can purchase a property of their own.

“Our goal is to have a permanent home,” Claudine Veistroffer said. “We’ve moved seven times in the last eight years.”

“We’re trying to find a way to grow,” added Patrick Veistroffer. “The real problem is not only financial, it’s the work involved.”

Operating on a $30,000 annual budget for the 150 and 160 animals they shelter at any given time, including roosters, chickens, rabbits and cockatiels that live at a nearby property, Cloa’s Ark depends on volunteers to assist with its operations. It does not have the revenue to hire paid staff to coordinate volunteers and get dependable help throughout the year.

The inspiration for the enterprise came when the husband-and-wife team first rescued cockatiels while living in Marlborough in 2002. Claudine Veistroffer was operating a salon when the first bird, which its owner had kept in a small cage, was given a larger space to fly.

“We let him out and he was so excited, and he let out a big yell, like, ‘I’m free,’” she said.

Though she was already vegan, the affection the Veistroffers had for cockatiels eventually gave her husband a path to also no longer eat meat or meat-based products.

The Veistroffers incorporated the animal sanctuary as a nonprofit while spending time at Sirius Community in Shutesbury a decade ago. They had earlier adopted a dozen goats from a similar sanctuary in eastern Massachusetts at which they volunteered.

“We wanted to not only give them a life, but we got an understanding of the relationship between humans and animals,” Claudine Veistroffer said.

Animal stories

The animals they rescue, which are each given their own names, also have their own unique stories of getting to the sanctuary. For instance, one of the goats was rescued from a regional auction house where it had been left to die, and two other goats came from a person who bought a property at which they were abandoned by the previous homeowner.

Each day, the Veistroffers provide hay, grains and other nutrition to the animals and check on their well-being, while Patrick Veistroffer drives his van to a nearby supermarket to get fruits and vegetables that are provided free of charge.

For the cows, the greens and larger vegetables can be dumped whole for them to eat, while Claudine Veistroffer cuts up the smaller produce, such as watermelon and carrots, for the goats to munch on. She says the goats have a sense of excitement for the treat that is coming.

“The goats see me preparing the food and know exactly what I’m doing,” she said.

In the past few years, the couple operated the sanctuary in Greenfield and Charlemont, though in both cases they did not own the land and were eventually evicted from those properties. In Charlemont, the eviction was prompted by Board of Health orders related to the couple’s living arrangement in a trailer on the property. Their last stop was in Deerfield before relocating to the Hadley site about a year ago.

Perhaps because of the greater visibility on Route 9 and proximity to the Pulse restaurant that shares their values, serving only plant-based food, they are seeing an increased number of visitors and inquiries from people, including groups who want to tour the sanctuary.

“Demand is so high it’s crazy,” Patrick Veistroffer said.

They are confident that their work fits a growing movement where people recognize there is a relationship between all forms of animal life, which hasn’t always been the case, as they point to the continued popularity of beef and chicken in the human diet.

“Human beings have been so mean to animals,” Claudine Veistroffer said. “They don’t see them as sentient beings, but as a commodity, even though they have a right to live out their lives, too.”

That recognition of the rights of animals, which will allow the cows to have full lifespans of 20 to 25 years and for the goats to live for a decade or longer, is one of the reasons that Alex Atwater of Charlemont, who had just eaten at Pulse, journeyed down to the field one day last week.

“I came here for lunch but wanted to say hi to the goats,” Atwater said.

Atwater said animal rights are social justice, and promoting veganism fits in with civil rights, equal rights and LGBTQ rights.

“That’s the next big social justice issue that has to be addressed,” Atwater said of helping animals.

To mark a decade of the sanctuary, the Veistroffers recently held a potluck celebration at their home at 293 Russell St., where the sanctuary for smaller animals is located.

“It’s been such a big part of our life that we can’t fathom not having a place for our sanctuary,” Claudine Veistroffer said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.