ANACORTES, Wash. — Wolves at Predators of The Heart animal compound have been roaming their fenced landscape near Anacortes for 21 years. The facility houses 15 wolves and more than 50 other species of animals, but the sanctuary's days may be numbered.
"We really just want our sanctuary to be part of the community," said Owner Ashley Carr. "We want to be an asset not a burden."
Carr said the wolves are tame but they're still wild animals.
Last October, three wolves escaped and ended up killing a neighbor's dog. That prompted a handful of neighbors to sue Predators of The Heart -- trying to shut the organization down permanently.
An attorney for the group said Predators of The Heart is not a sanctuary at all.
"Under state law, a wildlife sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that cares for animals defined as potentially dangerous and, critically, does not engage in any activity that is not inherent to the animal’s nature, commercial activity involving an animal, direct contact between the public and an animal, or breeding," said attorney David Perez.
Members of PETA said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the facility on several occasions for the way it has handled wolves and cared for other animals.
"Everything we do at the sanctuary is for the animals," said Carr. "People who come through here can see our heart."
Along with wolves, Predators of The Heart also gives a home to dozens of other exotic animals from alligators to sloths.
It's able to keep running by selling tours to the public.
Carr said the facility has been unable to operate for the past year, however, because of a permitting issue with Skagit County.
With no income, the lawsuit is draining the sanctuary's reserves and the future doesn't look good.
"We're very close to closing up shop," said Carr. "It's really discouraging. If we didn't have to pay thousands of dollars a month in litigation we would've had a few more months to be okay."
Carr said she'd be happy to move the sanctuary to a friendlier location.
She found a property in Island County, but the $2 million price tag is unaffordable right now.
With time and money running out, Ashley is now being forced to make some very difficult decisions.
Since so few places are equipped to care for wolves and other exotic animals Ashley believes 80% of her creatures may have to be euthanized.
"It's one thing to put an animal down because of a medical issue. It's another to put them down because people don't want them here. It's not fair," she said, choking back tears.
With the lawsuit dragging on and money running out Carr believes she only has a few weeks to find new homes for the animals or to put them down.
It's a heartbreaking reality she struggles with every single day.
"We just want to do what's best for the animals," she said. "We don't want to be a burden to people, but we also don't think animals should be euthanized just because people don't know all of the facts."