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A family-run farm just outside Austin, Texas, is connecting special-needs children with animals that come from similar backgrounds.

Safe in Austin serves as a haven for people and animals with disabilities, special needs, mental health challenges and traumatic past experiences.

“We rescue animals from severe abuse or neglect, rehabilitate and rehome the ones that are able, and offer a safe and loving forever home for the rest,” says founder Jamie Wallace Griner. “Once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; we introduce our rescues to children that come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and/or special needs.”

All species are welcome at the sanctuary, regardless of the condition that Jamie finds them in.

“We have animals that are blind or deaf, have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines … they all become part of our family.”

Jamie launched the farm in 2014 when she and her husband bought an old broken down, over grown, hoarded ranch in Leander. She has slowly been renovating it from the ground up.

The farm is now filled with abused and/or neglected chickens, cows, horses, rabbits, goats, pigs, dogs and more.

“We have dogs that have been abused beyond your wildest imagination, but are an example of total forgiveness and trust. We have giant pigs that were saved from the slaughter truck, and love nothing more than to roll over for belly rubs or snout kisses! And we always have precious baby goats running around waiting for a hug,” says Jaime.

It all started after witnessing the immense impact a service dog named Angel had on her son, Jackson.

“Before Angel, Jackson was filled with fear and anxiety. He was afraid of being alone, didn’t like change, or crowds, and had very few words,” Jaime said.

“Besides stopping what use to be daily breakdowns, Angel introduced Jackson to the world… It started off slow, but eventually he started talking more and more. Soon we noticed him making eye contact with strangers…. Very quickly Angel was able to help him with confidence beyond my wildest dreams. He now went into public places with ease, made eye contact with everyone, and held conversations that surprised us all.

Angel turned our world right side up, and we will be eternally grateful. She touched a place in his heart that I couldn’t get to. Animals have a judgment free, natural ability to provide unconditional love and friendship to anyone that needs it.

Because of their relationship, we are determined to provide the environment where rescue animals can change the lives of the children that need them the most.”

Jaime now has countless stories to share about the bond between special-needs children and animals on her farm.

“A child that spent the first decade of her life surviving horrible abuse and neglect only to end up in foster care and starting all over again with a new family finds an understanding friend in a Macaw that is afraid of people because of his ten years in a drug house.”

“The little girl that learns she is beautiful and unique just as she is while she cuddles a rescue turkey who also has a ‘lucky’ hand just like her.”

“A boy with autism whose heightened senses have kept him from experiencing many things, not only touches, but kisses Peter the rescue pig on the head shocking everyone who loves him!”

“A child with a history of horrific abuse who picks up a rescued puppy and tells him he knows it will be okay because he also has cigarette burn scars on his body but he is better now and learning to be happy.”

“The blind family who works together grooming and loving on the blind pony that lost her sight from decades of neglect.”

“The child whose legs have never worked quite right experiences instant joy when he meets a dog who has a wheelchair just like him.”

Although she says Safe in Austin is a work in progress, her favorite part of the farm is helping animals give hope and confidence to those who need it.

“No one is ever charged a fee to come to us for healing because our friendship is unconditional and love doesn’t cost a thing,” she says.