Bleating goats and a sheep crowded around Deb Roberts as she entered one of Home On The Range Animal Haven’s several livestock pens.
Melting snow churned to mud beneath the ungulates prancing feet on the warm spring day. Roberts, 67, smiled as she introduced her flock, a mix of Nigerian dwarf goats, a pot-bellied pygmy goat, Peebs the sheep and an overly friendly boar goat named Pong.
“(Pong) is the clown of the whole place,” she said before addressing the goat directly while rubbing his nose. “You’re a clown, aren’t you?”
Home On The Range boasts a ranch house, 60 acres of pasture, barns, out buildings and a beat-up, red pickup for running errands around the property.
At a glance, the enclave would be difficult to discern from any other small ranch in the Laramie Valley.
Rather than raising livestock for produce or recreation, however, Roberts’ animal haven serves as a farm animal retirement home, hospice and sanctuary.
“All the animals that are out here have been abused, abandoned or neglected,” she explained. “They come out here to live out the rest of their lives as we nurse them back to health and care for them in a way many have never known.”
The sanctuary provides the animals with food, shelter and regular medical care. Not every animal that arrives at Home On The Range can be saved, Roberts said, but she tries to ensure their stay at the haven — no matter how short — is spent in comfort and ease.
During the last eight years, dozens of horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, cats and dogs have come to call the sanctuary home.
Currently, 36 animals reside on the ranch, Roberts said.
But all that could soon change.
The home for homeless animals is in danger of becoming homeless itself.
Since 2011, Home On The Range has been located a couple miles south of Laramie, but come May 1, that might no longer be the case.
“The property owner decided it is in her best interest to sell the property,” Roberts explained. “So, we’re trying to figure out what we’ll do next.”
Ideally, Roberts said she would purchase the property and allow the sanctuary to grow in place. However, the cost of purchasing the land is beyond the nonprofit organization’s budget capabilities.
Already, Home On The Range relies on fundraising and local donations from private residents and businesses alike to fund the day-to-day operations, so adding a land purchase on top of those expenditures could prevent Roberts from being able to offer the standard of care the animals need, she said.
Other options could include raising the funds needed to purchase property elsewhere through donations and grants or finding a temporary location to house the animals until a permanent location can be acquired.
“We’d like to stay here in Albany County,” Roberts said. “But we don’t really know what’s feasible at the moment.”
Roberts said Home On The Range is polling its supporters for potential solutions, and the organization set up a GoFundMe account for people interested in helping with the move or land purchase.
Thirty-seven people donated $4,029 of Home On The Range’s $250,000 goal to the account, www.gofundme.com/save-this-animal-sanctuary, as of press time Tuesday.
As an organization, Home On The Range’s mission is two-fold: provide animals with a nurturing “forever home” and offer a therapeutic environment to enhance people’s well-being, Roberts said.
To meet these goals, Roberts said she works with several organizations throughout the state including ARK Regional Services, Cathedral Home for Children, Peak Wellness Center and the Cowboy Challenge Academy among others.
“The kids just love the animals,” she said. “In a way, they become therapy animals.”
During the winter, the ranch is quiet and primarily maintained by Roberts. But come summer, the place is abuzz with dozens of volunteers coming and going, she said.
Home On The Range hosts several groups of “at-risk adolescents,” who Roberts explained visit the ranch to help with chores and interact with the animals.
In some cases, however, a visitor might simply be a community member seeking to learn more about raising animals.
“We had one mother and daughter come out a while ago,” Roberts recalled. “The daughter wanted a goat, so the mother brought her out here to get an idea of what it would be like to take care of one every day.”
Whatever the case, she said all are welcome, and the animals are always up for a visit.
“They’ve gotten so used to groups coming out that I can drive over to the fence and honk,” Roberts said, chuckling, “and the donkeys will come in, and the goats stick their head through the fence. It’s a good time that everyone seems to enjoy.”
As for the future of the sanctuary, Roberts said she is taking it one day at a time with hope a solution to the location problem will readily present itself.