Local woman’s passion for animals lead her to open animal sanctuary
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BLACKFOOT – If you have animals you can longer take care of, a Blackfoot woman may be able to help you.
Charlene Di Maria is the founder of Funny Farm Animal Sanctuary, which is home to 39 different animals, including 11 cats, eight dogs, five potbelly pigs, four hogs, seven roosters, two goats, one sheep and one steer.
Some of the animals were going to be butchered for meat before Di Maria rescued them. Others were abused or neglected.
“Some of the roosters came from Boise because (the previous owners) couldn’t take care of them anymore due to zoning regulations, so they drove here and dropped them off,” Di Maria tells EastIdahoNews.com. “A couple in Boise convinced a truck driver to let the pigs go.”
Di Maria has loved animals since she was a little girl and opening the sanctuary was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
She opened Funny Farm in March of 2019 on a 1.6-acre parcel at 35 North 550 East in Blackfoot after spending five years living in an RV with her partner, Jace Brewer.
“Our last stop was in Evanston, Wyoming, and at that point, I was getting tired of RV’ing,” Di Maria says. “We already had five dogs in the RV. I’ve always wanted to rescue animals. We (didn’t have room to) rescue anymore so we decided to purchase some property.”
She and Brewer found a home they liked in Blackfoot. They parked the RV at McTucker Pond in Pingree while they were waiting to close on the property.
During this time, Di Maria saw an ad for a pig that was being sold for a Hawaiian Luau.
“We didn’t want to wait because the pig was going to be butchered. We got the pig, (which they named Johnson), and brought her with us in the RV,” says Di Maria.
After settling into their home, the sanctuary continued to grow and Funny Farm officially became a 501(c)3 nonprofit last October. Di Maria invests a lot of her own money into the project and donations help cover some operating costs.
Di Maria first started rescuing animals when she joined the military. She remembers rescuing several ferrets and secretly keeping them in her apartment because it wasn’t allowed.
Her passion for rescuing animals only grew when she became a vegan about three years ago after seeing a documentary called “Earthlings.”
“It shows what goes on at factory farms and the cruelty these animals endure,” Di Maria says, tearing up. “We choose to eat animal flesh … (but) we don’t need meat to survive. There are so many more sources of energy and protein we can get from plants.”
Di Maria knows her beliefs about animals aren’t popular in eastern Idaho, but still maintains what the World Animal Foundation says on its website.
“Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction,” the foundation says, according to Di Maria.
Going forward, Di Maria is hoping to purchase more land and expand the Funny Farm Animal Sanctuary.