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Casey’s Safe Haven seeks foster families, volunteers

ELBURN – Petunia the pony protector has been warding off coyotes for about 18 months.

The 7-year-old donkey is a fixture at Casey's Safe Haven in Elburn where volunteers care for ponies and horses relinquished by their owners.

“As long as we have elderly ponies, we will have Petunia,” said Sue Balla, who runs the equine farm of the rescue organization that also offers foster care for dogs.

While Petunia does a good job protecting her fellow barn mates, Casey's Safe Haven also needs human help for the ponies, horses and dogs in its care. Balla founded Casey's in 2011, naming the rescue after a malnourished horse bought from an auction of 63 thoroughbreds. Balla cared for him for 26 years until he died at age 28.

All of the nonprofit’s horses and ponies stay on a farm in Elburn where volunteers help feed, brush and nurture them. The agency’s biggest need for the equine side is people willing to volunteer or donate supplies, Balla said.

Needs on the dog side, which has been part of Casey’s for more than a year, are a little different, said Kathy Schweisthal, who runs that branch of the organization.

The agency needs people willing to foster dogs, which come from three rescues in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama known to have high kill rates. Volunteers move the dogs from the shelters to foster homes in the northern Illinois area, with most of the agency’s 10 consistent foster homes in Kane County.

“Our foster homes are the heart of the organization,” Schweisthal said. “They open up their homes and take care of these animals.”

Casey’s subjects potential fosters to interviews and some screening before they can take in a dog. They also have to use specific veterinarians closer to the Chicago area.

People that want to adopt a dog also have to go through an interview, as well as a meet-and-greet with the dog, and submit to a background check. They also will have to pay $295 to adopt, which covers of spaying or neutering, shots and other services.

Schweisthal said the agency rescued 248 dogs within its first year. Because the agency sees a continuous need to rescue dogs, Schweisthal also uses Casey’s to spread a message.

“The biggest thing we try to push is spay and neuter,” Schweisthal said. “Spay and neuter your dogs.”

How to help

For the equine rescue, contact Sue Balla at or 815-762-1983. For the dog rescue, contact Kathy Schweisthal: or Gaye Masnjak:

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