Rescue Story

Rescuing Elli: Runaway Sheep Destined for Slaughter Finds Her Flock

Close-up image of Elli Sheep's Face

Rescue Story

Rescuing Elli: Runaway Sheep Destined for Slaughter Finds Her Flock

The slaughterhouse workers called her “95.” They had painted that number on her side—then added another red line on her back, likely marking her for death.

But the sheep we now call Elli had other plans. In mid-February, she escaped her confines and ran for her life: going “on the lam” for the next ten days. Now safe at Farm Sanctuary, Elli doesn’t have to run anymore.

Elli’s escapist escapade throughout Ramapo, NY united the community in securing her safekeeping. But because she was frightened and mistrustful of people, Elli would dart whenever someone got too close. The only time Elli appeared to feel safe was when she found a grassy patch to graze. But she never stayed in one place for too long—letting her guard down could be dangerous.

Sheep are prey animals, so instinct tells them to flee from any perceived threat. This, combined with Elli’s previous trauma, made her especially fearful. Elli likely saw, heard, and smelled death all around her at the slaughter facility—she may have even lost family and friends. She, just like them, had a strong will to live; the only difference is that Elli was lucky enough to escape—and she wouldn’t give up on her newfound freedom without a fight.

Still, Elli remained at risk on the run. The locals feared she might get hit by a car while darting from one neighborhood to the next—endangering her and any unsuspecting drivers. So the Hudson Valley Humane Society (Rockland) teamed up with the local authorities to remove Elli from harm’s way.


  • Elli arrives at Farm Sanctuary's New York Sanctuary

  • Elli joins our main sheep flock

  • After shearing, Elli is finally free of the markings that once slated her for slaughter. Her new life as an individual—not a product—can truly begin

Sheep learn over time to identify with their flock, or even with their own breed.

Elli Sheep at Farm Sanctuary

Though exhausted, Elli continued to run for her life. She even managed to escape from police after brief containment in a local park. She would search for secluded spots to graze, rest, and regain her strength. One such space just happened to be in a Ramapo resident’s backyard. After discovering the lone sheep, the homeowner slowly and quietly gated her in—and then contacted HVHS to help bring Elli to safety.

Based on Elli’s previous escapes, it was all hands on deck to attempt this next corral. As soon as they heard about Elli, HVHS called the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit and the Stony Point Police Department for reinforcement—and even requested a road closure to prevent Elli from escaping again! To the collective relief of all involved, the loading process went much easier than expected and Elli quickly stepped onto the trailer. AnnMarie Gaudio, President and Humane Law Enforcement Officer, then reached out to Farm Sanctuary to see if we could take on her care.

The following day, our staff arrived at the HVHS shelter to take Elli home. Elli, ever cautious, still questioned her safety; our faces were new to her, and she clearly doubted our intentions. Worried she might try escaping once more, we slowly and carefully eased Elli into a temporary barn at our New York Sanctuary.

Sheep are herd animals who find safety in a flock—and in time, we felt that a herd would help Elli feel more at ease. But before introducing her, she would need a clean bill of health. And before we could examine her, we would need to gain a little trust. To start, we only entered Elli’s barn to give her food and water. Then, our caregivers took turns sitting with her in the barn—while still keeping a healthy distance—in order to help her get used to us. In time, Elli began to approach us for treats (she’s especially fond of apples!).

Once we could take a closer look at Elli, we discovered that she had arrived with keds: a sucking parasite similar to ticks. We did our best to keep her comfortable during treatment—a difficult feat with any animal that prefers keeping human contact at a minimum. As a general rule, we only approach timid animals when medically necessary. Though we would love for all animals to like us, it is also okay when they don’t; we honor Elli’s autonomy to choose who she wants to interact with.

That being said, Elli’s entire demeanor changed once she was healthy enough to join our sheep flock. Though at first wary of this change of pace (she moved from a barn of 1, to more than 80 sheep) she almost immediately fell in stride. She reminds us a lot of Officer Cal: a sheep that we saved from trauma last year, who has since found peace of mind in our barn. Like him, Elli, too, began to blend right in.

Elli still prefers sheep to people, but she’s no longer frantic in our presence. Barring necessary checks to keep her safe, she knows that she is free to her space. Though slow to bond with any sheep in particular, she is often positioned in the center of the flock. Surrounded by her fellow sheep, she can finally breathe.

Elli Sheep after shearing at Farm Sanctuary

Come springtime shearing, the final traces of Elli’s former life—the remaining paint on her back and side—disappeared for good. In her new life, she’s free to graze on green pastures, soak up the sun, and relax with her new friends in our soft, straw barn. This plucky sheep who fought so hard to survive will never again have to go it alone. She is safe, loved, and valued as someone, not something—and now, she finally knows it.