Gross: Skagit County animal sanctuary facing shutdown over permits

Nov 10, 2023, 5:37 PM | Updated: 5:46 pm


Wolves are among the animals that are cared for at Because We Matter, an animal sanctuary in Skagit County. (Photo: Because We Care)

(Photo: Because We Care)

A Skagit County animal sanctuary is facing the prospect of having to shut its doors due to the county suddenly demanding it acquire special permits to house its animals.  

Because We Matter (BWM) is a wildlife education and conservation space that dedicates itself to housing animals who “for various reasons, find themselves without a place to live out their lives.”  

BWM has been around for 21 years. In 2018, they even started offering a unique vacation rental experience where guests could stay on-site. The organization’s executive director Ashely Carr said this was a great venture to support their care for the animals.  

“It just started to bring in the revenue to where the organization could really expand, build and grow out to be just even more of a beautiful thing than we already were,” Carr told the Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH.  

Skagit County told the facility it would need to gain a special use permit to become an animal preserve to continue to operate in this capacity. Carr explained because of this, BWM has been closed to the public for the last 20 months. The organization has been caught in local bureaucracy ever since.  

“They are having some difficulties interpreting Washington State law, but we’re having to take it to the [Superior Court] next,” Carr said. 

However, the owner of a neighboring property is coming after BWM with a lawsuit as well. 

“They are suing us saying that the animals here are a nuisance. The wolves howling, things like that are a nuisance,” Carr said.  

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Those complaining moved to the area roughly eight years ago—well after the BWM had established its operation. Carr believes the animals very rarely make noise.  

“During the hearing, the neighbors actually stated that the howling doesn’t bother them. And that they’re used to it,” Carr explained. 

“He doesn’t even hear it unless he opens his window,” she continued. “And our wolves only yell maybe four to five times a day lasting maybe 30 to 45 seconds at a time.” 

Carr said she doesn’t understand why they are facing so much backlash. The stated intent of the organization is to take in animals that have nowhere else to go. The venture also supports, aids, and cares for the animals.  

“The only way we could technically stay open is if we got the community and the support to come together and the monthly contributions, to be able to continue to operate without having that main source of income,” Carr outlined.  

She has all but given up that permits can be secured to re-open in the same capacity they operated in before. However, Carr still wants to care for the animals because she fears there is no other option for them.  

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“We have animals that you know, are suffering with kidney failure, diabetes, and they wouldn’t even safely be able to be transported to another sanctuary safely, and it would just create an unnecessary stress for them,” Carr said. 

Groups like Because We Matter are doing important work to keep animals in good health, especially as they head toward the later stages of life. Yet for some reason, something as silly as a ‘special use permit’ is getting in the way. 

Click here to support and learn more about Because We Matter. 

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gross: Skagit County animal sanctuary facing shutdown over permits