Founded in 1980, Living Free was among the first privately funded, no-kill animal sanctuaries rescuing cats and dogs from imminent shelter euthanasia. We carry on that mission today, and are working to increase public awareness so that soon all shelters can become no-kill. We believe every animal has a right to live with compassion and dignity, and we provide hope until they find their forever home.
Emily Jo Beard, (1923-1989), founded Living Free in 1980 as one of the first privately funded, no-kill sanctuaries where animals would be safely housed without being caged. The sanctuary was designed to co-exist in harmony with the natural world surrounding it. Emily’s compassion still inspires us, and each dog or cat’s life that is saved is a tribute to her legacy. She believed in freedom and reverence for all life, and that justice was not meant for human-kind alone, but also for animal-kind. To her, dominion over the animals meant guardianship, not power and tyranny. The courage to stand up for the rights of animals did not mean physical courage, but moral courage.
Inspired by the beliefs of Albert Schweitzer, her goal was to provide hope and dignity to animals with whom we share the earth, and she devoted her life to this purpose. “I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.” – Albert Schweitzer
The Living Free staff and volunteers strive to carry on these traditions every day.
For thousands of years, our site was home to the Cahuilla Indians, who left behind substantial archeologically significant evidence of their presence. We have taken steps to protect these sites and the Cahuilla legacy, living in harmony with the natural world surrounding us.
In the 1880s the land was annexed by the US Government, and later sold as homesteads. In the early 1900s, John Keen (Keen Camp Summit) bought the property developed it into a camp. Eventually his family built a resort known as Tahquitz Lodge.
In the 1920s the Tahquitz Lodge and mountains and meadows surrounding it were used a shooting location for filmmaking pioneers, who shot many westerns on and around the property. Mary Pickford, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Katharine Hepburn filmed here, among others. The ruins of the lodge can be seen in the center of the property which has been renamed “Court of Friends”, and a prop chimney built for a film shot in the 1920s can be seen in Johnson Meadow.
On an Autumn day in 1980, Emily Jo Beard visited the area for the first time and recognized that her vision of giving life to as many orphaned animals as possible could begin here. She purchased the land and donated it to the cause. Living Free Animal Sanctuary began with ten dogs, five cats and Emily. She added the kennels, catteries and other support buildings to carry on the vision “to provide refuge and to bless our fellow creatures. If homes cannot be found for them, they will live out their lives in dignity and peace at Living Free.”
Our mission is to save cats and dogs that have been abandoned to shelters and are scheduled to be euthanized.
Once at Living Free, our Rescues go through a full medical examination and receive required treatment, are spayed and neutered if necessary, and are then provided a safe, cage-free environment and rehabilitated, socialized, trained and prepared for adoption.
We have also developed education and outreach programs to promote responsible pet ownership, and are collaborating with other rescue organizations to help end the need for healthy animal euthanasia through public awareness and the eradication of inhumane puppy and kitten mills. By pulling together and spreading the word, we believe we every shelter can become a “no-kill” shelter by the year 2020, and have created our “Almost Home | 2020” Initiative in support of this goal.