RUSCOMBMANOR TOWNSHIP -  Safety Net Sanctuary in Ruscombmanor Township provides tender loving care for a variety of unwanted animals.

Lisa Poper is the kind of person who takes action if she sees an injured animal on the side of the road.

A fondness for helping animals in need was instilled in her growing up on a farmette near Fleetwood.

"I was always a big animal lover ever since I was a kid," Poper said. "I was always involved in 4-H. We always had dogs, cats, horses, a little bit of everything."

About 11 years ago, she began to take things a step further by welcoming unwanted animals into her home to care for them.

Three years ago, she made her commitment to animals apparent to the community when she officially established Safety Net Sanctuary on her farmette in Ruscombmanor Township.

She has a deep compassion for animals she rescues that are either old of blind, have cancer or are unwanted for other reasons.

"I just think they need a voice, and I represent them in that aspect and give them as much care and love as I can until they pass or I can find them a home," she said.

Most of the animals at the sanctuary are there to stay, such as horses she has that can no longer be ridden.

"A lot of the animals I have here are senior and special-needs animals," she said. "A lot of them don't get adopted out."

The sanctuary sits on 12 acres of land, most of which is pasture where the horses and goats graze. Pot belly pigs share a paddock area, and other areas of the sanctuary are occupied by cats, chickens, ducks, a turkey and even a bunny that is free to roam.

"It's just one big, happy circle," she said. "They all run together, which makes me feel they are comfortable being here and that they are loved and are all content."

One of Poper's favorite residents at her sanctuary is a mini donkey named Henry.

"He hollers every morning, and the whole neighborhood can hear him," she said. "He was rescued from an auction."

The dogs at the sanctuary live with Poper in her home when they aren't outside playing in a fenced-in area.

"I have pit bull, a rottweiler and a chihuahua - the older chihuahuas usually need homes - and I also have a bulldog," she said.

Despite Poper's demanding schedule as a nurse who works night shift, she enjoys carving out the time needed to care of the animals during the day after work.

"The process of feeding takes at least three hours in the morning," she said. "At night, before I go to work, I will come out and check on everyone."

Weekends are reserved for chores such as mucking out stalls. When it comes to any of the animals needing medical care, Poper has some places she turns to most frequently.

"I usually deal with the hospital at the Humane Society, or the Bernville Veterinary Clinic works with me," she said.

Word of mouth has been the primary source of getting animals to the sanctuary. In some cases, Poper takes animals from the Humane Society that can't be adopted out for various reasons.

"People who know me from previous jobs and friends, they are the people who will contact me and ask me if I can help them," she said.

Debbie Dreisbach, who works with No Nonsense Neutering in Muhlenberg Township, has been working with Poper for the past few years.

"She has helped us several times by taking stray shelter cats that were too scared to be adopted," Dreisbach said. "The program she provides gives animals a place to go and live out their lives when no other options to them are available."

No Nonsense Neutering has been working on an initiative to place shelter feral cats in barn homes.

"I will get a feral cat, and the next thing you know I can touch them and they are comfortable with me," Poper said.

Poper's big heart for animals has led to making her life feel complete.

"I was never a person to be married and have kids and do all that - it has always been animals," she said.

Poper said the greatest fulfillment she gets from having her sanctuary is knowing how much her animals rely on her.

"They know I'm going to see them every day, and I look out for them every day," she said.

Poper has made sacrifices to care for her animals, but she said it has been worth it.

"I do give up a lot personally for them because their needs come first," she said. "You always have to sacrifice things for what you love. I have missed out on vacations, relationships and things like that, but it's OK. This is very rewarding to me."

Contact Courtney H. Diener-Stokes: