Animal Rescue Sanctuary Opens Gates to Public

COVID-19 has affected industries in many different ways, with many facing an uncertain future, but one industry that has been largely overlooked during the pandemic is that of animal rescue.

DRU founder Kate Bijkerk is worried about the future of the animals at the sanctuary and is asking for the community’s help. Photo: Courtesy Emily Daly

Deathrow Unchained (DRU) is a non-for-profit Brisbane-based animal rescue that has decided to tackle the financial affects of COVID-19 on their organisation head on, by opening their doors of their animal sanctuary to the public for tours.

Located 20 minutes out of Brisbane’s CBD in Burbank, DRU’s animal sanctuary is home to more than 140 animal “residents” who have been rescued from a former life of neglect.

Since opening five years ago, DRU have rescued more than 3330 animals.

DRU founder and director Kate Bijkerk said COVID-19 put a massive financial strain on the animal rescue and financial contributions had been limited since the pandemic started.

“COVID has financially affected Deathrow Unchained dramatically, as our main source of income was through events and sponsorships,” Ms Bijkerk said.

“Obviously events were dramatically affected by COVID, so not being able to conduct events anymore was huge,” she said.

“Through the hard times everyone was going through, sponsorships were also dropping off quicker than we could sign them up.”

DRU animal rescue saves all kinds of abandoned and neglected animals, including two pig families who live at the sanctuary. Photo: Courtesy Emily Daly

Ms Bijkerk said the tours were vital to keeping the sanctuary running.

“Our tours help to put food into our animals’ mouths, it helps us cover rent, vet bills and other costs,” she said.

“Not only do tours give us the ability of giving our animal residents a beautiful and deserving life, but it gives us the financial ability to save more.”

Business developer and cooperate sponsorship manager Emily Daly said tours, events and animal sponsorships were essential in helping care for the animals at the sanctuary.

“Having COVID creep up on us like that was quite terrifying for the team,” Ms Daly said.

“All of our tour guides and volunteers are not paid,” she said.

“Even our founder and director, Kate, does not take an income from the sanctuary.

“All the money we raise from tour ticket sales goes directly into animal care and providing a safe and permanent home for them.”

DRU’s animal sanctuary has approximately 30 acres of land where ‘residents’ can spend their days in comfort. Photo: Courtesy Emily Daly

The sanctuary host six hour-long guided public tours per week, which allow visitors to see the sanctuary and interact with the rescued animals.

The tours are suitable for all ages and give visitors access to a range of animals at the sanctuary, including goats, pigs, cows, sheep, dogs, cats and chickens.

Tour visitors get ample opportunities to cuddle the animals and take photos, and can even feed the animals in the disability paddock, a separate area of the sanctuary where blind and physically impaired animals have formed their own “family” group.

The team at DRU are passionate about making sanctuary guests feel connected to the resident animals and showing the public how healing it can be to spend time with animals.

“We have a great vibe here at the sanctuary,” Ms Bijkerk said.

“You’ll be greeted by a lot of smiles and then be taken around to meet our beautiful animals,” she said.

More than 150 animals permanently reside at DRU’s sanctuary, including goat brothers Finn and Drew. Photo: Courtesy Emily Daly

Ms Bijkerk said visitors to the sanctuary were also treated to interesting facts, as well as stories of how the animals came into their care.

“You can really get up close and personal to see how amazing these animals are,” Ms Bijkerk said.

“The biggest thing for us at the sanctuary, is you’ll be able to experience the connection between animals and people,” she said.

“That’s what we strive for here, we know how much animals can give back to us.”

DRU’s animal sanctuary is located in Burbank and features approximately 30 acres of open space, which allows plenty of room for visitors to enjoy time with the animals while still being socially distant.

The DRU website,, provides information about the social distancing requirements at the sanctuary, and sanctuary tour guides ensure guests are aware of any necessary safety precautions before beginning a tour.