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Animal sanctuary in Alpine in need of help

The Children's Nature Retreat has been hit hard by the pandemic and reduced income from less visitors.

ALPINE, Calif. — The Children’s Nature Retreat in Alpine is home to a wide range of rescued animals.

“I love those piglets,” said owner Agnes Barrelet as she pointed out a group of piglets huddling together in their pen. “They are so cute.”

The new piglets are only a week old. Their mother and father were taken in a month ago after being abandoned on Japatul Road. But unfortunately, the piglets will be the last animals taken in for a while.

“Right now, we cannot take any more animals because we cannot keep increasing our expenses,” said Agnes.

She said her animal sanctuary has been hit hard by the pandemic and reduced income from fewer visitors. Costing about $1,500 a day or $45,000 a month to cover expenses, she said they’re facing a tough financial situation.

“It’s scary because I promised those animals to stay here, and they will remain here all their life. It is their last home,” said Agnes. “That’s why I created this place. To give them the best home for the rest of their life and I will not disappoint them. And I’m doing everything I can to turn this thing around.”

The sanctuary is open to the public Thursday through Sunday, and she hopes to get the word out about how great this place is to visit.

“It’s great for families,” said Agnes. “It’s unique. There is no other places in San Diego where you can get so close to the camels, the zebras, and the horses and the bison. You can feed an ostrich.” 

Donations have been trickling in on their website, but so far, they’re only meeting about half of what they need to continue operating.

“Not paying myself,” said Agnes. “Not reimbursing the loans. But paying the staff, the food, vet care, and maintenance.”

With so many fascinating animals here, Agnes and staff want more people to know about this place because it’s special.

“This place is a healing place,” said Agnes. “It’s a healing place for adults, even for kids. It’s very serene.”