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75 Reviews
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February 26, 2013
11 people found this review helpful

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February 26, 2013
11 people found this review helpful

I was a volunteer and special person at the Gentle Barn for two animals and worked every Sunday for 2 years from 2009-2011. I would be very happy to attend an open, public discussion with the current staff and Board of Directors regarding financial and animal care records.

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Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

February 26, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

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February 26, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

My name is Louisa. I travelled from London, UK, to Santa Clarita in May 2010 specifically to volunteer at The Gentle Barn. I was very alarmed by many of the things I witnessed and have already given statements to the appropriate persons.

I would be very happy to attend a meeting with
Ellie, Jay, an impartial mediator and those of us who have unsavoury experiences of GB, behind the facade.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A little

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

February 26, 2013
34 people found this review helpful

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February 26, 2013
34 people found this review helpful

I feel compelled to write this in response to so many of the five-star reviews being left on this site in defense of the Gentle Barn and critical of past volunteers and employees who are voicing their concerns about this organization's level of care for its animals and its use of donation dollars. In all honesty, if you're forming your opinions from any sort of remote vantage point – animal sponsor, Sunday public visitor, casual volunteer, Facebook fan – you should admit to yourself that you probably do not have the necessary information or insight to refute with any sort of intelligence the issues being raised by those who have been closest to the inner workings of the Gentle Barn.

I was a senior level volunteer there for two years, acting as both the upper barnyard manager and "special person" to Billy The Goat until his unfortunate death last year. I was also a regular donor. If you visited any Sunday between April 2010 and February 2012, you probably met me, even if you don't remember. I think I missed just two public sessions in the yard during my entire tenure as manager. With this in mind, I would like to respond specifically to those comments left here and elsewhere on line in praise of the barn based soley on what a "wonderful" and "magical" experience it is to visit on Sundays and see so many farm animals living together they way they do in the upper barnyard.

I can't begin to count the hundreds of conversations I had with people who were so delighted and so amazed to find themselves in the middle of what I so often heard referred to as "Utopia." Because you just never see goats living with a 1,000-pound pig living with a tiny little hair sheep living with turkeys living with llamas living with an emu living with chickens living with cows. Right? But have you ever asked yourself WHY you never see goats living with a thousand-pound pig living with a tiny little hair sheep living with turkeys living with llamas living with an emu living with chickens living with cows?

Because it is UNSAFE.

It's unsafe for all of the individual animals, for the staff working the grounds, for the volunteers trying to cover such a condensed and overcrowded area and for the public visitors with little to no experience with farmed animals who venture into the space. When you visit other sanctuaries - and I would hazard a guess this applies to ANY other responsibly run sanctuary – you will see the large pigs in their own area and the birds in their own area and the cows in their own pasture, etc. Because this is what is safest for all involved – most especially for the animals lucky enough to be living in sanctuary rather than dying in factory farms. Yes, a 1,000-pound pig should most certainly be able to run as many crazy, joyful circles around his space as he wants. But volunteers should never have to throw their bodies over smaller, more frail animals while he does, in the panicked hope no one gets trampled.

We all must be critical, intelligent thinkers who form our own opinions based on our own experiences. My experiences at the GB – while some were so very wonderful (like falling in love with so many animals and people there who've forever changed my life) – have also unfortunately led me to believe that the safety and well-being of the animals there takes a clearly measurable backseat to the all-important image of Utopia. Because Utopia tugs at the heartstrings. And because these kinds of emotional responses solicit donation dollars. I think – based on my lengthy and very involved tenure there – that the Gentle Barn no longer raises money to rescue animals. I am of the opinion the GB rescues animals to raise money. This distinction is very important.

And this is why (finally coming full-circle to my ultimate point here) I am so endlessly frustrated at such glowing reviews based solely upon the wonderful feelings people have upon visiting the barn. Yes, as farmed-animal advocates we LOVE that you feel so happy experiencing the joy of being around these wonderful souls. But as farmed animal advocates we also know that our own joy should never – EVER – be at the expense of any animals anywhere. In sanctuary especially, the animals must come first. As someone who staffed that yard from a strictly defensive position during my last year (Who can handle the big pigs best and keep them from brawling in such small barns? Who can best manage [cows] Holy and Madonna to keep them from falling in the pig pool and probably breaking a leg? Which volunteer has a strong enough personality to keep people away from any animals who are overwhelmed by the crowds but still make everyone feel welcome? Who can make sure yet another chicken or turkey doesn't get crushed under one of the pigs?), I most definitely believe your happiness visiting there has been granted at the expense of the residents who call that yard home.

All this being said, please know one more thing: We are not a small group of toxic, disgruntled, ex-volunteers filled with bitterness and hate. Our numbers are many and we are compassionate and concerned and – without exception – brokenhearted. Among us are experts in the fields of animal care and advocacy. Among us are college-educated, working professionals with both corporate and non-profit backgrounds. Among us are community leaders and concerned parents and people who LOVE the original mission statement on which the barn was built. We just think the founders have lost their way. And some of us, myself included, are trying to right our own personal wrongs of staying quiet far too long and watching animals suffer because of it.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Okay

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

February 25, 2013
22 people found this review helpful

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February 25, 2013
22 people found this review helpful

I understand Darshan Sergi is trying to organize a public meeting with the Gentle Barn! I would love to attend!

My name is Erich Lange and I was a donor, volunteer, special person, served on the committee for the Gentle Barn's first golf tournament, possess a Lifetime Family Membership
Card ($1000.00), and rode with Jay to the Planning Department in 2010. I have been to both of their facilities. I volunteered from May 2010 until I was asked not to come back in February 0f 2011. My first visit to the Gentle Barn was to make a $1000.00 donation to help save "60 sad cows". Here are a few questions I would like answered at the meeting:

1. Where is their 2010 IRS Form 990? (update 2/26/13 - it is now on Guidestar)

2. Where is their 2011 IRS Form 990? (update 2/26/13 - it is now on Guidestar)

3. Was the structure they put up on the Agua Dulce property permitted? I can't find a record of a permit.

4. What happened to the 60 cows from their 2010 campaign; the one where they raised $200,000?

5. On their 2009 IRS Form 990, I believe it says they paid $0.00 in salaries. How is that possible with a full office staff?

6. Jay once told me that he and Ellie didn't draw a salary. How did they support a family of 5 with no income?

7. If they weren't drawing a salary, how did they pay for their Las Vegas wedding and their various vacations (Hawaii, etc)?

8 Did their Board meet regularly BEFORE the Attorney General showed up in November of 2011? Do they have the minutes?

9. What does Ellen have to say about the 60 cows that were never rescued?

10. Could we ask to see their personal tax returns for 2010 and 2011 so we can see how they supported a family of five?

11. Were they responsible for my website being temporarily shut down?

12. How many "disgruntled" people did Ellie actually send her "Notice and Warning" to?

13. When the Gentle Barn was in Tarzana(?), was it zoned for an animal rescue?

14. GB faithful have claimed that my posts seeking answers are "filled with lies!" yet I am still waiting to have that claim substantiated. Please ask Jay, Ellie, Mike, Michelle, etc. to compile an actual list of these lies so I can apologize in public at this meeting. In two years the best any of them has come up with is that I had the name of a chicken wrong (the one that was accidentally killed by one of their pigs). The truth is that I have never knowingly lied about Jay, Ellie, or the Gentle Barn.

I hope this helps in preparing a list of questions for the meeting.

Erich O. Lange, P.E.
E-mail: wherearethecows@gmail.com
Facebook: Where are the cows?
Website: wherearethecows.webs.com

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

No

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

No

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

February 25, 2013
18 people found this review helpful

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February 25, 2013
18 people found this review helpful

My Name is Nikki and I was a special person at the Gentle Barn for a horse named Princess. I was a special person to Princess for almost 2 years. I came to see her almost everyday; grooming her, walking her, riding her, and taking general care of her until I could not take the verbal abuse and prolonged stress I endured from Ellie and Jay any longer...forcing me to leave.
I also donted money for the "60 sad cows" campaign...the same cows that were never saved. I have filed a complaint with the Attorney General and the Gentle Barn is currently under investigation.
I would be very interested in meeting for a public forum to get answers.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Okay

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

February 25, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

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February 25, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

My name is Kathy Lange. I was a donor, volunteer and a 'special person' to a cow at the gentle barn. I am willing to attend a meeting to hear what Jay, Ellie and the Board of Directors have to say about the allegations made on this and other sites.

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Was your donation impactful?

Unsure

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

No

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

February 25, 2013
19 people found this review helpful

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February 25, 2013
19 people found this review helpful

My Name is jackie Wagner and I volunteered at the Gentle Barn for three years. I also was employed by Elli and Jay to babysit their children and work with the horses for a short period of time. I worked closely with the all the animals and the volunteers and was there about 20 or more hours a week. Me and my family also made donations to the Gentle Barn.
I saw personally how they treat animals and volunteers and it is not okay. Because of the mistreatment I saw I would absolutely attend a meeting where the board, staff and Elli and Jay can answer our many questions. I think its time that me and many others finally get the answers that we deserve. If Elli, Jay and the Gentle Barn have nothing to hide than this meeting sounds like a wonderful idea.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

February 25, 2013
14 people found this review helpful

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February 25, 2013
14 people found this review helpful

My name is Alexandra Caswell. I was employed by the Gentle Barn from 2010-11 as an Office Administrator following several months of volunteering. I would be very happy to attend an open, public discussion with the current staff and Board of Directors regarding financial and animal care records.

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

None

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

February 25, 2013
13 people found this review helpful

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1 previous review
November 3, 2011

I, too, am echoing the other reviews and adding a little extra from my own experience. I began volunteering there in 2010. I spent most of my time in the upper barnyard. Shortly after I began voluntee... more

February 25, 2013
13 people found this review helpful

My name is Jody. I would love to attend a public meeting to discuss the financials of The Gentle Barn as well as the care of the animals and maintenance of the facility. As a nonprofit 501(c)3, all of the financials of The Gentle Barn should be available for public review. As donors have a right to know how much money is coming in and how it's being spent.

I think an independent moderator is an excellent idea. And I even think it's appropriate to put all finance-related questions to Ellie, Jay and the Gentle Barn Board of Directors prior to the meeting so that they have ample time to gather the documents necessary to support their claim or refute those from the public. This way, there can be no "I'll get back to you on that" moments.

I volunteered for several months a couple years ago. I left for reasons explained in detail in a much earlier review that I posted on this site (still available should you feel like scrolling through to read it). Just look for my name, it was on page 6 as of this morning...

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

November 3, 2011
30 people found this review helpful

I, too, am echoing the other reviews and adding a little extra from my own experience. I began volunteering there in 2010. I spent most of my time in the upper barnyard. Shortly after I began volunteering, there was an urgent fundraising effort to save an orphaned calf from a local farm. The day the calf was to arrive, suddenly the mother was located and so the calf was no longer orphaned. Instead of using the raised funds to improve the housing for the existing animals at GB, or for food and health care, they decided to go to an auction and PURCHASE two other calves. These calves caught the attention of Ellen Degeneres and were named by her - Holy and Madonna. Once Ellen learned of these calves she became an active supporter of GB and now donates large sums of money on a regular basis.

While their fundraising habits leave something to be desired and clearly lack the transparency one would expect from a non-profit, I also have a personal issue with Ellie and Jay. They live on the property and have 5 pet dogs. I am a professional canine behaviorist and read dogs very well. I know how to interact with them and have (so far) never been attacked. On one day, as I was getting ready to leave, 3 of her dogs appeared out of nowhere and surrounded me, barking, and one lunged at me. Once I was able to extract myself from this unpleasant situation, I reported the incident in the office. Ellie brushed it off as being harmless. When I left the office and approached the upper barnyard fence so I could speak to Ellie, I was again surrounded by these dogs who were acting in a very menacing manner. That time, I was blocked between the fence and my car by these dogs, and my only means of safe escape was to enter my car through the passenger door.

Only a month later, as I arrived, another of Ellie's dogs charged me at full speed, barking and menacing. This was sudden and aggressive enough, that my instinctive response was to change directions and make myself less threatening. When that failed to slow the dog down, I instinctively challenged the dog back to try to get it to back down. I screamed "Whoa!" repeatedly; after my third shout of "Whoa!" Ellie finally came into the area and dragged the dog off. Ellie seemed appropriately contrite. But just one hour later, as I was leaving, she AGAIN allowed this same dog free access and this dog AGAIN charged me at full speed, barking and menacing. As I said, I'm a professional and I have the self control and confidence to simply stand still with my back to the dog, but most people would have been very frightened by this dog's aggressive behavior. Had I screamed in fear or tried to run away, I have no doubt that this dog would have tackled me and may have bitten.

I tried to politely point out the massive liability issue of having these dogs loose on the property - both during the week when volunteers (not paid employees) are wandering around, but also on Sundays when they are open to the PAYING public. Ellie informed me that it was absolutely "not [my] place to comment" and Jay assured me there "is no liability because they don't bite." To me this is egregious neglect. Any dog who is that aroused and acting in a fearful, defensive manner as this dog was (and who has teeth in their mouth) WILL bite at some point.

Ellie and Jay's complete lack of concern for the safety of their volunteers and the paying public was the last straw for me. I am a canine professional and I was more taken aback and actually frightened by her dog (the second encounter) than I've ever been with any dog I've ever encountered. I decided that as a volunteer who was donating my time, I did not need the stress of wondering if I would be attacked every time I arrived. I informed Ellie that I would no longer be volunteering and the specific reasons for my departure. She never responded.

If Ellie and Jay's connection to GB were to end, and a proper board of directors was established, with transparent reviews of where the money is coming from and where it's going, I would be open to resuming my volunteer work there. But as long as Ellie and Jay are at the helm, I have no interest in being connected to GB.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I volunteered my time with the animals for 4 months at the end of 2010.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would remove Ellie and Jay from any role with GB. The concept of Gentle Barn is great. But Ellie and Jay mismanage the money, fraudulently fund-raise, are rude and disrespectful to the volunteers and show a complete lack of concern for the safety and well being of those who spend time on that property.

February 25, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

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Review from Guidestar
February 25, 2013
17 people found this review helpful

My name is Darshan Sergi and I worked in the Gentle Barn office for 4-1/2 years. My title ranged from Development Associate to Director of Development, but most of my work was on the operations side. I was also on the Board of Directors for several years. There are a lot of claims being made in this forum. I am not going to add anything in this post, but I have a proposal.

I propose that we have a public meeting with Jay, Ellie and the Gentle Barn Board of Directors. I propose that the meeting be open to everyone so we can openly discuss all issues that have been raised. I propose the following guidelines:

-Independent Mediator: Given the emotional nature of the issues raised, an independent mediator would ensure all sides are equally heard.
-Supporting Documentation: Documentation should be provided to support or refute a claim. Jay, Ellie and the Gentle Barn Board of Directors should bring Gentle Barn financial and animal care records, and open them up for public inspection.

If you would be interested in attending this meeting, please post using your real name and describe your relationship with The Gentle Barn. Here is a sample:

“My name is John Smith. I am a donor and I volunteered with the horses for two years and I would love to attend this meeting.”

I look forward to an open and honest dialogue with everyone. Thank you.

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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