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Animal sanctuary in Fort Pierce damaged by strong winds during storms

'It's sad, because this stuff was all donated,' Winnie Burns says
Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 26, 2023

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An animal sanctuary in Fort Pierce said strong winds from last night's storms damaged its facilities.

Creature Safe Place is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-regulated nonprofit that takes in all kinds of wildlife that may be sick, hurt or abandoned.

"We get animals from all over the state of Florida," said Burns.

The sanctuary's volunteers then rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild.

Yet Tuesday night's storms threatened that mission, according to the sanctuary's director, Winnie Burns.

"You can see all the stuff that’s blown all over the place," said Burns, walking WPTV through the debris that littered the sanctuary's five acres. "All of our things just flew all over the place, it’s just a mess.”

Burns said the wind was so powerful Tuesday night it sounded like a freight train passed through the area.

"I will never forget that sound," said Burns. "All this stuff broke yesterday. We had a big awning over here, it's all cracked and broke up. We have nine tortoises in there that were found wandering.”

The wind also uprooted a large tree in the front yard of the sanctuary, which then crushed three picnic tables, something Burns has never seen before.

"In 30 years, we’ve lived through a lot of hurricanes, and we’ve never had a situation as bad as this," said Burns. "The good is, when we get some chainsaws out here and cut this up, we’ll build fences with it.”

The only problem is that takes man power, something the nonprofit, which runs entirely on donations, doesn't have.

"This is hard for me and my husband to do," said Burns.

Currently, Burns said they're caring for about 60 animals, but only have about 10 part-time volunteers, all of whom are senior citizens.

"Orphaned babies, you know, birds," said volunteer, Kim Pennington. "I'm just in the nursery and I just volunteer one day a week."

That being said, the nonprofit said they are going to need help from the community to rebuild and cleanup, and sooner rather than later.

The wind blew part of the sanctuary's fence over, which is critical to keep animals in and keep them safe.

"Thank God our horse wasn’t in here," said Burns. "It's sad, because this stuff was all donated. Everything you see that isn’t a blade of grass was donated. Everything you see."

Still, Burns said she isn't discouraged, hoping instead that the community will step up.

"We're going to ask the public for their help and were going to into the bank account if we have to," said Burns. "It's my home. It’s my home. We're going to redo this. Because we have baby season right now, we have 20 to 30 animals coming in a day. We’re just going to keep going, this is just a trip in the mud puddle. But it is heartbreaking."

Burns said the biggest need now is volunteers who can help chop down the fallen tree, build the fence, or even just pick up debris around the facility.

They are also always looking for volunteers to help with the animals or donate supplies.

To get involved, you can contact the nonprofit by phone at (772) 579-0618, by email at creaturessafe@aol.com, or via her Facebook page here.

The public can help the nonprofit, located at 4044 McCarty Road, on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Workers need help cleaning up debris, rebuilding a fence and chopping down a tree.