Mike Cogliano: From Courthouse to Henhouse – #AnimalRescue

Working within the Ohio court system, Mike Cogliano once dreamed about going into law enforcement, working to see justice served in his community. But after a dramatic career change, his approach is much different now; today, “Justice” is the surname of a rooster he cares for, and the only “Miranda rights” he deals with are the right of animals like Miranda Lee whom he’s given protection and care they deserve.

Throughout his time at both our Northern California and New York shelters, Mike has worked to create a more compassionate world for all – making life better every day for the animals in his care and helping to open hearts and
minds to the sentience, dignity, and inherent worth of all farm animals.


Mike and Molly: not the hit TV show, but a real-life story of love and compassion.

After realizing that a legal career was no longer a path he wished to pursue, Mike ventured out to Utah to work with dogs at Best Friends Animal Society. An animal lover, Mike was excited at the opportunity to make a difference for dogs in need. But to his surprise, his experiences at Best Friends would change his life just as much as the lives of the dogs he worked with, and he came to see his relationship with animals in a different light, leading him to align his actions with his values to extend compassion to all beings.


Mike’s new friend Elliot suckles on his arm for comfort.

Many animal lovers do not start out being vegetarian or vegan, and such was the case for Mike. But with support from friends Vicki and Roy Cosio – fellow dog caregivers at Best Friends, as well as Farm Sanctuary supporters – Mike began to examine how his choices affect all animals, not just the “companion” animals with whom most people are more familiar. Their friendship inspired Mike to transition first to vegetarianism, then veganism. And when Mike decided to move on from Best Friends, Vicki and Roy encouraged him to apply for a caregiving position at Farm Sanctuary’s Northern California Shelter in Orland, CA. While Mike was new to farm-animal caregiving, we knew his experience with dogs would lend well to a position on our shelter staff, and we were pleased to welcome him to Farm Sanctuary in October 2008.


Mike with friends Vicki and Roy Cosio, who inspired his vegan journey.

When people get to know farm animals up close, they are often surprised to learn that they are very similar to their dogs and cats at home. For example, pigs
enjoy rolling over for a hearty belly rub
, and cattle love playing and running through pastures with delight. Free from the confinement, mistreatment, and heartache that billions of farm animals like them face each year, our rescued residents are finally able to express their unique personalities at sanctuary, where they are valued not as commodities, but as the thinking, feeling individuals they are. Still, a caregiver’s work is not all fun and games. While farm animals like our cattle may play like puppies, Mike learned early on about the unique challenges that go along with caring for them.

Cattle at play: what real “happy cows” look like!

Such was the case with Susie Moo, a once-terrified cow rescued from a backyard
butcher facility who emerged as an independent leader of our Orland cattle
herd. Susie Moo is one to live life on her own terms, and while we love that she
feels confident enough to be herself, we must also take measures to ensure that
she – and all of our residents – are properly accounted for at all times so that they can continue to enjoy the care, protection, and recognition they deserve.


The beautiful, independent, fun-loving Susie Moo.


Sometimes, however, the animals outsmart us while looking to satisfy their curiosity or have a little fun. As Mike recalls, “When I had only been a caregiver for a few months in Orland, I was on a p.m. meds/closing [shift] one night and I had driven out in our utility vehicle to check on the cattle. As I drove around and counted to make sure everyone was there, I kept coming up one short. They were on a huge pasture so I drove around and counted numerous times, but was still missing one cow. Being fairly new, I wasn’t sure who was missing, so the manager at the time and a live-in caregiver came out and it was determined Susie Moo cow was unaccounted for. We had all the interns come out and check the fence line to see where she could have slipped over to another pasture.


“We found the spot where she jumped over onto a neighbor’s land, where we found her with their herd that included many bulls. After countless tries of trying to get her separated from that herd we finally managed to get her back onto our property and safely back with her herd. And yes, Susie Moo is very stubborn. Finally, at about midnight, I drove home to get a few hours of sleep before heading back for my next shift.”


Mike and his fellow shelter staffers do an excellent job ensuring that our residents, many of whom lived through terrible ordeals before being rescued, never again enter harm’s way – and that they spend the rest of their days knowing nothing but the care and kindness they deserve. Here, they are forever valued as someone, not something – and Mike’s life has been touched by many of these special someones throughout the course of his career.


Mike and Melvin taking a walk to get his special feeds for the day. 

For example, Buddy goat has been an instrumental part of Mike’s journey,
teaching him many lessons about the power of unconditional love. “Buddy came to the farm about a month after I started, so I think we bonded since we were both the new guys. He was just a loving, gentle goat. Unfortunately, because of
arthritis and other joint issues, his legs were breaking down pretty quickly and
he had to be euthanized. He was lucky to have spent the last few years of his
life at the farm and I was lucky to have known him.”


Good pals Mike and Buddy.

After spending more than five and a half years in Orland, Mike transferred to our Watkins Glen, NY, location nearly two years ago. Here, he continues his work attending to the various needs of our rescued residents, giving a new group of friends the love and care they need to thrive. During quieter moments at the sanctuary, Mike loves having the chance to bond with friends like Zuzu, Benedict, Chucky, and Wilson goats; Adriano, Cash, Freckles, and Grace sheep; and Andy, The Doctor, Sleepy, and Marge pigs (pictured below) – each of whom has added great meaning to his life, and each of whom exemplifies the difference that compassion can make in the life of another.


Some of Mike’s closest sanctuary friends, listed above in order of appearance. 

And of course, no one could forget about Maggie, whose birth to rescued mother Olive this past December has inspired countless people – staff and supporters alike. Maggie’s arrival was particularly special to Mike, confirming just how fulfilling his chosen line of work can be. “Maggie’s the first goat I have witnessed being born, and I got the honor of cutting her umbilical cord,” Mike reflects. “I feel lucky to have been there and it was just an amazing night being surrounded by co-workers, interns, and Olive and Maggie goats.”

Mike loved being there to witness Maggie’s first moments.

Mike’s dog Lucy is also a sanctuary favorite, and when they’re not out on walks together, Lucy spends her time “working” in the shelter office. With Lucy at his side, it’s clear that Mike’s work has come full-circle. Cows and chickens, pigs and sheep, dogs and cats – at Farm Sanctuary, Mike is helping to draw the connection between farm animals, companion animals, and “humanimals,” demonstrating how our own lives are enriched when we value each and every individual, no matter their species.


Mike and Lucy, enjoying a snowy day at sanctuary!

“My life is definitely a different one than I had planned,” Mike says. “Being vegan and witnessing every day the impact veganism has on all these animals is an amazing thing. I never thought I would be vegan or working with farm animals, and both have enriched my life.”

Every day at sanctuary, Mike sees up close just how incredible and unique these animals are when they are simply allowed to be themselves. And every day, we are privileged to work alongside this inspirational humanimal, whose example so clearly demonstrates the positive difference we can make when we live our lives guided by the principles of kindness and compassion.

Mike, Avery, and Harper.

Mike and Zuri

Mike and Susie administering life-saving care to newly rescued chickens.

Mike lovingly escorts a chicken pal.

Mike and Susie welcome little Josie Mae and her mom Willow to our New York Shelter.

Mike and a newly-rescued Bruce, becoming more healthy and playful by the day!

Mike and caregiver Kerrie Wooten welcome Melvin goat to his new home!

Mike and pal Roy Cosio, who encouraged him on his path to compassionate living.

Mike and Maya.

Mike and Madeline.


IV drugs for sweet Bonnie donkey at our Northern California Shelter.

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