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  • Writer's pictureAhmad Austin

Everyone Gets Along on this Funny Farm, Thanks to Passionate Rescue Founder

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

(Originally published for SNJ Today on 11/8/2017)


MAYS LANDING, N.J. - The following is a companion story to the latest SNJ Today "In Their Shoes" segment.


Laurie Zaleski hasn’t had a day off in almost 20 years, but if you were to ask her, she may tell you otherwise.


“Animals are everything to me,” said Zaleski, owner of the Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing. “I wake up to smile with them [and] to play with them.”


Zaleski first bought the 15-acre farm for her mother in 2000. At the time, her mother was very sick and eventually passed away just two weeks before she made settlement on the property.


According to Zaleski, the purchase actually took her life on an unexpected path.


“I always joke and say I was going to have [a] cappuccino with my friends and live in Philadelphia,” she said.


“[But] I ended up at the Funny Farm.”


Throughout the last 17 years, the 24-hour rescue has welcomed animals of all kinds and now cares for over 500 farm animals, house pets, and even exotic animals. Every single animal taken in qualifies as a “rescue,” meaning they would likely not be alive today if not for the Funny Farm.


“A lot of our animals have disabilities or they are missing ears, or feet, or eyes,” said Zaleski.


She points out how one of her dogs—who goes by the name of Chuck—has a disorder called megaesophagus, which is when the esophagus is abnormally large. Because of this disorder, Chuck can only eat while sitting upright and has to be placed in a high chair to do so.


Working with these animals, in Zaleski’s eyes, can teach humans some very important life lessons. The most impactful one is simply learning to coexist with one another.


“We can all get along, no matter the species,” Zaleski said. “There’s no bullying here. We don’t care if you have fur, or feathers, or claws, or beaks, or teeth. It doesn’t matter. Everyone gets along at the Funny Farm.”


At the farm, unexpected animal relationships are all around. Skunks can be seen playing with cats. Dogs walk side-by-side with turkeys. It truly seems, as Zaleski even mentions, that these animals are brothers and sisters. This rescue is their version of a Utopia where they can live in perfect harmony.


Despite her job being her passion, Zaleski does admit that at times it can be tough maintaining such a large rescue operation.


“If you’re sick, it doesn’t matter,” said Zaleski. “You have to take care of the animals… They can’t feed themselves.”


There is one simple ingredient, however, that keeps her motivated despite the numerous hardships.


“It’s the unconditional love they provide,” she said. “They are my best friends. No matter what happens, they are there for you.”


Zaleski isn’t the only one affected by the unconditional love of the rescue animals, however. Volunteers have also voiced how beneficial it is to be around such a loving environment.


“We have people with PTSD that tell me they wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the Funny Farm,” Zaleski said. She also mentions that the farm does not turn down any volunteers. They welcome them in the same way they welcome the animals.


With the help of volunteers, Zaleski has been able to develop a community where all walks of life can rediscover happiness and stability. Anything with a heartbeat that enters through her doors is family, and they’re walking into a pretty extensive one.


“People always ask, ‘How many kids do you have?’ ” said Zaleski. “And I say, ‘I have 500-plus.’”

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