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Safe Haven Llama & Alpaca Sanctuary and Adoptions, Inc. is seeking donations.

Hay or feed, homes for the animals, volunteer workers and financial contributions are needed and appreciated.

Charlene Hakes, president and CEO, said she began rescuing llamas and alpacas in 1990 and her key goal is education.

“People need to educate themselves first before getting a llama or alpaca,” she said. “I get calls where people buy llamas but know nothing of their needs.”

A llama boom happened in the early 1990s with people purchasing llamas to use as pack animals.

“In 1990, the big thing was the Missoula and Bitterroot Llama Club and we’d get together and share things we learned like how to keep barns clean and what we were feeding,” Hakes said. “We were helping and educating each other.”

The llama boom was over about six years later when the dollar dropped.

Hakes was contacted by numerous llama owners and ranches who had animals they no longer wanted. She would answer the calls, evaluate the animals, bring them to her land, train them and adopt them out or sell them.

“In about 1998 I decided we’d need to do something,” Hakes said. “Llamas were for sale everywhere and you couldn’t even get $50 for a good quality stud male.”

She filed to become a nonprofit sanctuary and received that designation in 2004, starting the first of 2005.

“I’ve been through so many llamas,” Hakes said. “This year I had lots and lots of animal death and it really takes a toll on me. It is a big deal and I have a harder time with animals than I do humans because I have a resurrection hope – my faith is everything.”

The sanctuary has had as many as 75 llamas but is now at close to 30 with a large influx in June and two llama rescues this month.

“Most of the people who have them are elderly and can’t care for them,” Hakes said.

She has had llamas that have stayed with her for years and she knows them well.

“They all have a story and a unique personality just like us people,” Hakes said. “I have lost eight due to death this year and that was hard. I have about 12 that I’m keeping a real close eye on and it will depend on the weather and what I see. My oldest one died two years ago – he was 35.””

Llamas usually live to be 22-24 years old and Alpacas live to 18 to 22 years.

Hakes knows the animals in her care, their family group and history, works to keep them in their familiar group and provide humane and tender care of each animal. She enjoys animals that are larger than small animals like dogs and cats and smaller than large animals like horses and cows.

“I’m out here two or three times a day,” she said. “I’m out here checking on them first thing every morning.”

The Llama & Alpaca Sanctuary needs hay in large or small bales.

“We are at the point where we have so many old ones now that we are feeding more pellets, three way and mineral as well as hay,” Hakes said. “It costs more but I keep them as healthy as I can. I also use homeopathy remedy with them in their water. I keep their toenails done and check their teeth.”

The mission of the Llama & Alpaca Sanctuary and Adoptions, Inc. is to rescue and rehabilitate llamas and alpacas who have been abused, neglected, handicapped and abandoned. It provides humane care, compassionate treatment and wellness care.

Education about the standards of care is a major focus of the nonprofit.

Hakes said she welcomes calls for information and education.

“I am here to help,” Hakes said. “I help with what kind of shelter they need, what kind of fencing they need, food, grooming and medical. They like short grass or hay, second cut, or they waste it.”

Adoption contracts include that when the new owner is done with the animal they must return it to Safe Haven.

“They usually come back,” Hakes said. “We have a hefty adoption application but it is for us to help them care for their animal. All donations are used in the care of the animals, 100 percent.”

Hakes said her original intent was to run the nonprofit for 15 years.

“I’m so glad I got into this,” she said. “I never dreamed I’d ever do it, I never even thought of it, but I’ve been doing llamas since 1990. I’ve really enjoyed that people have a place where they can get information. They can just Facebook me and I can answer their questions and educate them. I do wish they’d educate themselves before taking an animal.”

Llama poo sells well and is the only fundraiser that the sanctuary does. It is available by contacting the sanctuary directly and at several commercial outlets.

To donate to Safe Haven Llama & Alpaca Sanctuary and Adoptions, Inc. mail checks to PO Box 226, Corvallis, MT 59828, call 406-961-4027 or email Online donations can be made at http://safehavenlas.wixsite.come/safehavenlas. Learn more on the Facebook page