Critter care

Claire Pass

Nestled in the back roads of Palermo, there is a unique home where abused, special-needs and otherwise homeless animals go for a little TLC—and a whole lot of love. Critter Pass Ranch Rescue & Sanctuary was founded in 2006 when Claire Pass and her husband, Ron, moved from Oregon to Palermo with a couple of horses. Since then, Pass and her family have rescued animals of all sizes, from mice and ferrets to ducks and horses. Pass received training in social and behavioral sciences in Oregon and had worked as a veterinarian technician off and on. In 2008, she applied for nonprofit status for her ranch and was finally approved last month. The nonprofit status enables the organization to seek out further funding and provide more care to the animals it serves, like blind canine Barney and his seeing-eye dog, Chrissy. In addition to caring for animals on-site, the organization reaches out to the community, taking their rescue friends to visit schools and the elderly in care homes. Additional funding would allow the ranch to complete some of its goals, including one to start programs assisting the elderly and homeless with the basic needs of their pets. To find out more about Critter Pass Ranch, go to

Why did you decide to open an animal refuge?

I had always dreamed of opening a “farm” where I could care for special-needs animals, but I did not want to serve only large animals such as horses and cows. I was moving to California and had received a few donations, so I decided to use those funds to start a refuge.

Since you had no family here, what made you choose the Palermo area?

My husband was having trouble finding work in Oregon. He was originally from the Bay Area, so we decided to move back to California. When we found this property we knew it was just perfect for what we wanted to do.

How many animals do you typically have?

We try not to overwhelm ourselves. We usually have between 80 to 100 animals at a time that include mice, cats, goats and others. We want to be able to provide the care and attention each of them need and deserve.

What was your first rescue animal?

I believe that would be Rooster. He is our 31-year-old white horse. He was a client of mine in Oregon, and he developed ringbone. Ringbone is a type of arthritis. We treated it with injections but it didn’t help much. His owner asked us if we would take him for our refuge. We ended up doing corrective trimming and it helped some.

What’s been your most unusual animal?

That’s hard to say. We have had ferrets. We also have a three-legged iguana and a cat with an autoimmune disease that makes her allergic to her own teeth.

Do you find homes for some of your animals or do they all stay permanently?

We have re-homed some in the past. We had some cats and other animals that belonged to an older woman. We were able to house them while keeping in contact with her family members and eventually found homes for most of them. It is our goal to do more re-homing in the future.