A family owned Texas animal sanctuary has launched a program for children with special needs to visit and bond with rescued animals who are also special needs. Safe in Austin is the brainchild of Jamie Wallace-Griner after she observed the interaction between her autistic son and his service dog, Angel. The current menagerie numbers 20 dogs, 14 cats, eight horses, 32 goats, four rabbits, three tortoises, one parrot, four turkeys, numerous chickens, 18 pigs, and four cows.
Over the years, as the ranch has been rehabbed, the population has grown to include chickens, pigs, and goats, many of whom have special needs. “We have animals that are blind or deaf, have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines … they all become part of our family. Once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; we introduce our rescues to children that come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and/or special needs. Our animals provide healing to trauma, at-risk, and/or special needs children by way of unconditional friendship and a clear, loving, example of what they are looking for most… hope” said Wallace-Griner.
As with their rescued animals, humans of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions are welcome at the sanctuary. “We don’t care about the choices you made in the past, what you look like, who you love, or what you eat. We concentrate on no judgment at all. Our goal is to offer a place of healing and happiness that is available to everyone. Visits and events are affordable, fun, worry free, and are guaranteed to touch your heart! Safe in Austin is a judgment free zone! Autism has taught us that nothing is black and white, and everyone has a story. We just want you to meet our babies, take some of their love, and share it with others!” Wallace-Griner said.
Prior to COVID-19, Safe in Austin was open to members of the public who toured the sanctuary led by volunteer guides. The pandemic meant enacting safety restrictions, which limited the number of guests that could be safely accommodated. The sanctuary has since made the switch to pre-arranged private family and small-group tours. Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.
Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.