The Dodo Story

Animal Sanctuary Flooded By Hurricane Rushes To Save Everyone

“When you’re faced with circumstances like that you’re stronger than you think.”
SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

Renee King-Sonnen is the kind of person who has made a habit of overcoming the impossible.

She married a cattle rancher — and now the ranch is a sanctuary. All the cows that were being raised for slaughter were saved, transformed from products to beloved pets.

Her husband then stopped eating meat. At first it was for health reasons and the environment. “Now he loves these animals like they’re his own kids,” King-Sonnen told The Dodo.

The sanctuary, which officially started in early 2015, is now home to 96 animals. Some were raised by kids for 4-H projects who then realized they couldn’t bring themselves to sell their animal to slaughter. Others were rescued from abuse, like several chickens saved from a cockfighting ring. There are also pigs, horses, dogs, turkeys — Rowdy Girl Sanctuary has saved all kinds.

So when King-Sonnen learned of a Category 4 hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, heading her way, she decided to prepare for yet another impossible feat — making sure every single one of her animals would be safe.

And it wasn’t her first rodeo, so to speak. The sanctuary was struck with some flooding last year. “We had just recently gotten our home and offices remodeled and we’d only been in our home for two months when this happened,” King-Sonnen said about Hurricane Harvey. “As soon as we got notice that it was a Cat 4, we sprung into action. I contacted multiple transportation organizations.” 

She and her husband, Tommy, rushed to coordinate temporary homes for their 96 animals. “It was a coordinated effort that was calculated under extreme and dangerous conditions,” she said. They managed to get many of their animals to Rejoice Ranch, three hours from the sanctuary, when things started to reel out of control as the weather worsened.

They still had three horses, three 600-pound hogs and 20 cows waiting for transport one evening as the storm was coming. “We were up until 2 a.m. waiting for the transportation when we heard that they weren’t going to make it,” King-Sonnen said. “We had to do the rest by ourselves. We had no choice.”

The following morning, on pretty much no sleep, Renee and Tommy got up in the rain and loaded up the three horses and the three 600-pound hogs and brought them over to the county fairgrounds. Tommy asked around at the fairgrounds for help to get the remaining cows to safety and found someone willing to help.