MAYS LANDING, N.J. -- "Most of these animals had no chance," said Laurie Zaleski. "They were set to be euthanized, so we were the last stop."
Zaleski, owner and founder of Funny Farm in Mays Landing, says the 15-acre oasis is the fulfillment of a special promise. Decades ago, her mother, Annie McNulty, fled an abusive relationship with three children by her side. Eventually, McNulty filled the house with rescued animals that Zaleski treated like family.
"I always said, mom, I'm going to buy you your own farm one day," said Zaleski. "And when she got cancer, she sadly died two weeks before I made settlement on this property, which is now the current Funny Farm."
Zaleski likes to think her rescue farm has a heaven division, given how many animals have graced her life over the last 22 years.
"I have 11 dogs who live in my house, I have a chicken, a blind baby lamb, and then almost 600 other animals," she said. "And everyone has their own story and they're all here for a reason."
For example, Zaleski rescued two dogs who were diagnosed with megaesophagus, making them unable to digest food properly. She was told they had six months to live. But by using a special high-chair and eating liquid meals, each dog is able to enjoy a longer lifespan.
"We have to give the animals a chance," said Zaleski. "We don't know how long life is. We're going to give them the best life that they can possibly have."
Zaleski invites guests into her Funny Farm for no cost on Tuesdays and Sundays. She also occasionally brings her curious animals into classrooms to promote kindness and coexistence.
"If all these different species can get along, then so can you," she said.
Looking back on her journey, Zaleski penned a book titled, "Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life With 600 Rescue Animals." It was recently released and received acclaim from People Magazine, the New York Post, and more. She is also a graphic designer with the Federal Aviation Administration and enjoys taking to the skies herself as a private pilot.
To learn more about Funny Farm, visit their website.