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Meet Ellie Laks of The Gentle Barn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellie Laks.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The Gentle Barn is a national non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates animals from abuse, neglect, and slaughter. We save horses, cows, donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, llamas, peacocks, and dogs. Once the animals are rehabilitated they are adopted into forever homes, unless they need ongoing care in which case we give them sanctuary for the rest of their lives.

When the animals are ready, we partner with them to teach people kindness and compassion to animals, each other, and our planet. We host school field trips, scout troops, private tours, and groups of at-risk, inner city, and special needs kids. Guests get to hugs cows, cuddle turkeys, give pigs tummy rubs, hold chickens, look into the eyes of farm animals and know that we are all the same, even though we look different. We are also open to the public on Sundays where visitors from around the world get to interact with the animals and hear their stories of resilience…

We currently have locations in California, Missouri, and Tennessee. We will be opening locations in each state to cultivate future generations who will have the kindness to animals, reverence for Mother Earth, and compassion for other humans.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Growing from a half acre with a handful of animals to three locations with 170 animals has definitely had its share of bumps on the road. We had to learn how to bring in funds, work with volunteers and staff, and heal many different kinds of animals. But little by little we grew, learned, overcame, and triumphed.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
What sets us apart from other organizations of our kind is that we work with animals and children, whereas most non-profits are one or the other. We are known for healing children who don’t respond to traditional therapy, and rehabilitating animals who are too sick, lane, old, or scared to be adopted by anyone else. Our healing circle where animals heal people and people heal animals is very unique and effective. And it is one of the only places that people can visit on Sundays and get a hands-on experience with farm animals.

Most people don’t know that cows love hugs, or turkeys like to be cuddled, or chickens have distinct personalities, or pigs love tummy rubs. The Gentle Barn is a place where children and adults alike can discover the magic of animals for the first time, in a very intimate, personal way.

What were you like growing up?
I always loved animals from the beginning. As soon as I could walk I would run down the sidewalk after someone’s dog, spend hours in the lakes with the frogs and tadpoles, or explore the woods with the bunnies and salamanders. Nature and animals were magic to me and I spent all my spare time with them. It was clear to me at a very young age that those around me didn’t feel the same way.

I laughed at and teased for my passion for animals, and by the time I was 7, I would tell anyone who would listen that when I grew up I would have a place full of animals and show the world how beautiful they were. I felt lonely a lot, and it was always the animals who made me feel loveable and wanted. From this first-hand experience of how healing animals were I decided that when I grew up, all the lonely, broken people of the world would come heal with me and the animals. This childhood dream became an obsession.

I spent hours at school drawing and designing The Gentle Barn, and before I fell asleep at night I would envision all the animals I would get to love. It soon became real in mind and I lived there in the feeling of that imaginary barnyard most of the time. When I was playing in nature I would come across lost or wounded animals and I would bring them home, hoping they would be my friends. My poor parents didn’t want a house full of animals so they would get rid of them, and later tell me that when I grew up I could have as many animals as I wanted. I really took that to heart and now have 170 animals.


  • We are open to the public every Sunday from 10-2 and ask a donation of $20/person to help us care for our rescued animals.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 15825 Sierra HWY Santa Clarita, CA 91390
  • Website:
  • Phone: 661 252 2440
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @gentlebarn
  • Facebook: @The Gentle Barn
  • Twitter: @gentlebarn
  • Yelp: @thegentlebarn
  • Other: Gentle Barn on Youtube

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Cori Rosman

    May 30, 2018 at 07:30

    This is a wonderful article about one of my favorite places. I gave up eating red meat and pork 4 years ago after my first visit. Ellie has awakened me spiritually which allows me to be more open with all animals.

    Please, before this goes to print, you have several typos and grammatical errors.

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