GTPulse: Young Family Opens Animal Sanctuary in Traverse City


My Aunt Kirsten is one of the biggest advocates for animals that I know. I think she would take home every lost or hurt animal she found if she could, but since she can’t, she throws her heart into activism via volunteer time at her local shelter, horse farm, and through community Facebook pages dedicated to the welfare of animals. It was through one of these pages that she came to find Sophiea Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary. The Traverse City-based sanctuary just opened up a couple of weeks ago and already a few parrots, turtles, rabbits, potbellied pigs, cats, dogs and more are calling the slice of heaven home.

Annelise Sophiea is the woman running the show. Along with help from her husband and children, she turned their family farm into a safe haven for animals who have suddenly found themselves without a home.

She grew up in Traverse City and married her high school sweetheart from TC West. Together they have three children, and before opening the sanctuary, Annelise was focusing on her photography business, Annelise Nicole Photography.

“I add animals to a lot of my images. I’ve just always loved them, ever since I was a kid. I grew up with a bunny, cat, dog, a horse. I did a little horse showing then and I still do today. I always dreamt of opening a sanctuary someday,” she said.

She also participated in a local 4-H program growing up. Though she always wanted to find ways to get more animals into her life, her parents would only allow so much.

“They said, ‘Once you get married, you can have as many animals as you want,’” she laughed. 

She’s manifested that sentiment into a life built around the care and well being of animals. The idea was planted in childhood but grew as Annelise got older. She got her degree in horse management at Michigan State University before moving back home to Traverse City and starting her photography career and a family. 

Her family of five have pets of their own to pour love into, and Annelise’s children participate in 4-H just as she did, but she decided that the time to make her sanctuary dream a reality is now. She weighed options between choosing to open a sanctuary or rescue. The key difference between the two is that rescues are meant to be a temporary home for animals, sanctuaries are intended to be permanent.

“A sanctuary is the best fit right now. The sanctuary is much more aligned with my capabilities, with having three young children I want to be able to make enough time for everybody. Some of these animals have had a rough past and once you get them to trust you, you don’t want to lose that trust. You want to let them live in peace. That’s what we want to do here.”

Sophiea Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary is already off to a running start. Annelise has already been contacted by local wildlife rehabilitators interested in working with her and potentially rehoming some of the animals who wouldn’t be safe returning to the wild.

Animals wild and tame will come to call the sanctuary home, but for the Sophiea family, their home is forever changed. Sleeping in is now a thing of the past, but Annelise enjoys the routine and schedule that owning the sanctuary brings. Her morning chores usually take up to three hours to complete; making sure all of the animals have been cleaned, watered and fed. She repeats the routine again in the evening.

“It’s given us more purpose in our days. The kids love it, My one daughter especially, she wants to be an animal rescuer. She’s only eight but she sets her alarm every morning so she can come to the horse farm at our little barn here at home. She’s a big help with all of the chores.”

The sanctuary has a wide variety of animals so far, but Annelise will not take in an animal that has a past of aggressive behavior in interest in her kids’ health and safety. She also won’t take in an animal who she cannot properly care for.

“Every animal is very specific in their care. Even different types of parrots require different care. Knowing what kind of food they need, and can’t have, is important so you really have to study up on your species care. We don’t want to take in too many so we can give everyone the time and devotion they need.”

Annelise’s devoted care has been paying off. One of the parrots who was given to her had a nervous habit of plucking her own feathers out and under Annelise’s care, has already begun to relax and stop hurting herself. Watching the animals heal and grow happier day by day brings Annelise and her family endless happiness.

If you’re interested in reaching out to the Sophiea Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, you can find them at

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Categories: GTPulse