Taking a tour at Tamerlaine Sanctuary & Preserve, which is home to 200-plus animals on a 336-acre farm in Montague, New Jersey, can be overwhelming. However, such is not the case for the sanctuary’s co-founder, Peter Nussbaum, who can recite – in detail – the history and story of each animal in his care.
Nussbaum and his wife, Gabrielle Stubbert, took the sanctuary leap in 2013, when they decided to open their farm to two roosters that needed a home. Already dog owners, they adopted the roosters, named Yuri and Jupiter.
“When we adopted the two roosters, we had two dogs,” Nussbaum recalled. “We had a garden and we loved animals. My wife thought it was a good idea to have a couple of roosters living in our vegetable garden so she bought a coop. I was a bit skeptical but open and, within a week of their arrival, it was crystal clear to us that they were no different than our dogs. [The roosters] would jump into the dog beds. The dogs loved the roosters and the roosters loved the dogs. They would take naps together. It was a life-changing experience for us. So much so that we decided, after adopting those two, we would adopt and rescue others and share the experience with other people.”
By 2014, they had rescued approximately 100 chickens, roosters and a couple of pigs. That led the couple to launch a nonprofit they named Tamerlaine Sanctuary & Preserve. Four years later, the couple expanded to the current property, which is equipped with barns and pastures, so they could save the lives of additional chickens, pigs, goats, geese, turkeys, cows and horses that have either been abused, abandoned, injured or destined for slaughter.
Tamerlaine is open to the public for tours and events so people can experience the transformative qualities of a sanctuary on farmed animals.
“Most people only think of dogs and cats as man’s best friend,” Nussbaum said. “One of the main purposes of giving the tours is to enable animal lovers to connect with animals that are generally thought of only as food. The tour gives people the opportunity to connect and see these animals for the incredible individuals that they are. They all have unique personalities. Many of them love to interact with people like dogs and cats do. And we watch people make matches every day. It’s life changing for a lot of people.”
After a recent tour, Nussbaum noted there are many animals in his care that people connect with, and didn’t skip a beat when providing several examples.
“If you ask 50 people who come on the tour, there might be 50 different animals that they fall in love with,” he explained. “Take Sheldon the goat – he’s the guy with the white and black face. He looks like he can be in the rock group Kiss. He came to us from a live market, a place where animals are purchased by customers while they’re still living and then they’re butchered for the customer on the spot. Sheldon was in a pen at one of these live markets. A woman walked into the live market in NYC. She leaned over into the pen and said something warm and comforting to the goat – he wasn’t named Sheldon at the time. The way the goat reacted, what he did was he put his front hooves on the lip of the pen, reached up and started kissing and nuzzling the woman’s chin and nose and rubbing his face against her face. The way that she described it, this goat was acting the same way a dog or cat will act when they are being adopted from a shelter.
“I’ve experienced it firsthand,” he continued. “It’s like dogs and cats clinging to perspective families when they come into the shelters and they’re introduced to the animals. It’s palpable. You can feel it – how desperate these animals are to get out of the shelters and into a home. He was clinging to this woman and he was trying to be rescued by her. She was so overcome with emotion that she decided that she had to get him out of there. She was able to convince the owner of the live market to let Sheldon live at our sanctuary instead of being butchered.”
Roman, a Berkshire pig, is one of Nussbaum’s most beloved residents at the sanctuary. He considers Roman and his siblings to be a “cautionary tale” for people.
“Just because you live in farm country doesn’t mean that you’re a farmer,” Nussbaum said as he recalls the pigs’ tragic story. “We learn about horror stories all the time – people with no experience who try to make some extra money by raising animals and getting involved as hobbyists in animal agriculture. It rarely works out. In the case of our beloved Berkshire pigs – Roman, Magnus and Bella – we rescued them when they were three hours old. They were born to a sow that a guy who lived near our sanctuary purchased because Berkshire pork is very expensive. It’s considered high quality pork. He purchased the sow with the game plan that he’d have a litter of babies, grow the babies and have them slaughtered for their meat and then he’d sell the meat.
“He made a terrible miscalculation that proved to be fatal for their litter mates,” Nussbaum said. “He didn’t realize that, when pigs are born, they need to nurse from their mother in warm environment; 80 degrees is ideal. He had the sow impregnated so that she would be giving birth in February. It’s very cold, bitterly cold, He didn’t understand that the mother needed to be in a heated environment to 80 degrees in order for the babies to nurse successfully – he had the babies born in a garage without any electricity or heat source. When the babies were born, they were literally freezing to death. The mother pig, recognizing that the babies were freezing to death, started to perform what is known in pig industry as ‘savaging’ or ‘infanticide.’ She was stomping on the litter. We believe that she was doing this to put them out of their misery because she was witnessing them freeze to death.”
According to Nussbaum, three of the newborn pigs were luckily pulled to safety and brought to Tamerlaine when they were three hours old. Nussbaum and his team fed them around the clock until they were healthy enough to be moved to a warm barn.
“[Roman, Magnus and Bella] have been with us for two and half years and I’ve never met sweeter, loving animals,” Nussbaum added. “When they were three hours old, they could fit in your hand. They were so tiny. They now weigh 500 to 600 pounds and they’re every bit as sweet today as they were when they were babies. They’ve known nothing but love from us, our staff and our visitors. They’re so sweet, friendly, loving and so interested and trusting of humans. Without any qualms, I’ll bring any little kids in with them.”
He goes on to describe an example of how the pigs provide nothing but unconditional love like a dog, cat or other animal that’s commonly thought of as a pet.
“I’ll take naps with them,” Nussbaum said with pride. “Their 600-pound frame and belly makes a nice headrest. It’s no different than taking a nap on the couch with your beloved black lab or golden retriever.”
Members of the pet care industry are taking notice of the work being done at Tamerlaine. Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein, the co-founders of Earth Animal, took a tour this past summer. The couple admits that they both were moved by what they witnessed during the tour.
“I was thoroughly impressed with Peter knowing the story of every single animal that was there,” Dr. Bob Goldstein said. “He knew their name, where they came from, what they went through – he knew everything about every single animal. I think that means the people who are behind this really take care of and love the animals that they’re with – that was very impressive to me.
“Over the years, we’ve been involved with many sanctuaries, including farm sanctuaries,” he continued. “What I liked about what I saw from Tamerlaine was not only are they a sanctuary that takes in the animals, they also have an educational mission to let people know about the adverse effects of factory farming. They’re an educational teaching facility that happens to have animals on the farm. That is very powerful that they can bring so many people in and educate them to the adverse effects and cruelty to animals.”
Weeks after the visit, Susan Goldstein said she was still touched by her interactions with the animals at Tamerlaine.
“I cannot tell you how inspired I am and soul provoked I was,” she explained. “You can tell a lot about an experience when it lingers on. The trip was inspiring because it made me want to give more and do more on behalf of factory-farmed or agriculturally raised animals. Bob and I have been very involved individually and as the owners of Earth Animal. Not until you actually see them, experience them, walk with them and have eye-to-eye contact does it really resonate in the most powerful way.
“For Dr. Bob and myself, it was one of the 10 best days of our lives,” she added. “As I drove up the long dirt driveway [to the sanctuary], I experienced a great peace, and it was like a ‘coming home’ feeling. And I could not help but think what do the animals feel when they approach the sanctuary for the first time. If I felt that, what must they feel leaving the holocaust behind.”
The Goldsteins understand the amount of work that goes into the daily upkeep of the sanctuary. Animal rescue and rehabilitation is a round-the-clock production that requires a vast amount of materials to care for the animals, many of which have been physically affected by neglect and abuse. According to Susan Goldstein, it’s an obstacle that faces many nonprofit sanctuaries.
“They all need money,” he noted. “We do charitable tithing in our company. After our CEO, Stewart Shanley, made his visit to Tamerlaine, he felt there should be greater focus in this area. We’ve always done our corporate charitable tithing, with our mission for protecting animals, people and the earth, but there isn’t enough being done in the factory farming area.”
“What we have done so far is we’ve sent them cases of flea and tick spray to help with the reduction of the flies that are inundating the animals, especially the cows. We’ve already made that commitment,” Dr. Bob Goldstein added. “We’ll be working with them – sending them supplements – to improve the nutrition by supplementing these animals. And then, in addition to that, as a holistic veterinarian, I’ll be seeing if we can incorporate some natural therapies, for not only the mental stability of these animals that have been abused, but also for the conditions that they’re putting up with. I believe there are some natural supplements that we can use to improve the immune system and make these animals more resistant to diseases and they won’t need to rely on antibiotics.”
The Earth Animal co-founders have plans to go a step further in their support for factory-farm animals by changing the way their company does business.
“Earth Animal has made a commitment to reduce the reliance, and eventually eliminate the reliance, on animal products in our products,” Dr. Bob Goldstein announced. “I am working on developing a plant-based line that I believe will be equally as good [in terms of nutritional benefits] as the meat-based lines that are [on the market]… The research that we’re doing will prove that we can get an animal – dog and eventually a cat – to be on a plant-based diet and supply them with the proper amount of essential fatty acid and amino acid. That is the commitment that Earth Animal is making by reducing the reliance on meat but keeping the nutritional benefit for the animal exactly where it should be.”
Nussbaum appreciates the interest and support that Tamerlaine has received from the Goldsteins. He describes Tamerlaine as a “struggling nonprofit, like all nonprofits who rely on the generosity of individual donors and corporate foundations. He goes on to admit that the sanctuary is a passion project that has been difficult, yet he considers it the most rewarding work he’s ever done.
“My wife and I are strictly volunteers who work for free,” he explained. “We’ve donated our modest life savings to operate the farm. We donate all of our money. Our goal is to get to a place where we can function without having to put our own money in, only because we don’t have any of our modest life savings left. We’re getting there.”
“Dr. Bob and Susan have been incredibly gracious,” he continued. “They’ve always been available to answer questions that we have. They are assisting us with some product. We’re grateful to have a relationship with them. They’re the only pet product company that we have a relationship with in terms of either donating product or giving us any sort of other support. We have relationships with human food companies, but we’d love nothing more than relationships with other pet companies that are interested.”
As Tamerlaine is a nonprofit organization, monetary donations are obviously of critical importance. However, Nussbaum admits that there are other donations that can help with his operating expenses, such as product and other materials.
“We have a tremendous amount of cleared pasture so we’ll never run out of space to home our rescue animals,” he said as he described future projects. “We have an historic, circa 1800 barn that houses our cows. While it’s historic and wonderful, it’s small. It’s home to three of our cows who have 26 acres to themselves. We’ll have five cows living there once our two most recent rescues, Oats and Cashew, two dairy boys rescued fr0m the Vermont dairy industry, are big enough to join the other three. The barn, while it’s a wonderful old barn, is big enough just for those five cows. We have enough space that we’d like to rescue more cows, so our next big project is building a substantial barn to house upwards of 25 rescue cows. We’re looking for partners to help build with us. We’re very open to naming barns after a corporate sponsor who might help us with the project. That’s one opportunity that jumps out.”
Earlier this year, Tamerlaine became the first animal rescue group in New Jersey to receive Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accreditation. According to the federation’s website, the designation signifies the sanctuary adheres to “standards addressing the sustainability of the organization, ethical principles, finances, staffing, education outreach, security and safety and other operational aspects.”