Charitable Conservation Contribution of Real Property Sought in WI or IL


A coalition of organizations that seek to provide sanctuary, rehabilitation, neutering and adoption services for a wide range of animals is seeking a home.


If you have ever tried to donate land, but could not find a land trust willing to accept it, a new option is available.  You could consider donating land to a coalition of animal sanctuary organizations.

At least in Wisconsin or Illinois, an unusual outlet for donations of private land could help landowners avail themselves of a charitable tax deduction for a conservation contribution of real property under the tax code

Non-profit Coalition Inspired by Texas Wildlife Rescue

Amy Kerwin, founder of Primates Inc. based in Madison, Wisconsin, had a business plan for her tiny start-up that called for the acquisition of five acres surrounded by farmland.  After painstakingly gathering names of landowners from plat maps in two counties and getting zero response to her request for land donations, she decided to scale up rather than scale down her ambitions.

She initially thought that a facility proposal would be more appealing to foundations if many organizations were working together.  She started networking with other organizations and soon met Debby Rubenstein, founder of Have A Heart Farm, also in search of land.  Have a Heart is seeking to set up a farm sanctuary for animals with special needs, for example a horse that requires medication for life.  These animals tend to get rejected from other sanctuaries because of their high maintenance requirements.

Kerwin wrote several foundations, asking for funding to purchase land.  However, foundations quickly told her that typically land is donated for these causes.

Inspired by Texas Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, which received a 70-acre donation of land worth about $1 million to kick start its operations, Amy Kerwin and Debby Rubenstein set to work.  Rubenstein began pursuing her already established relationships with animal rescue organizations of the Midwest, while Kerwin ran her capital campaign.  Soon, a coalition of animal welfare organizations coalesced, and they christened themselves HEART: Helping Each Animal Receive Time.  

Currently, the list of organizations with an interest in establishing and sharing a Midwest animal sanctuary includes:

  • Have a Heart Farm –  rescues farm and domestic animals and wildlife
  • MAPPAR – rescues potbellied pigs, feral cats and dogs
  • Wagner Farm Rescue Fund [] –  supports domesticated farm animals retired from Wagner Farm in Glenview, IL
  • Primates Incorporated – will operate an indoor/outdoor sanctuary for primates retired from research and the exotic pet trade
  • AHA! (Alliance for Humane Action) – provides affordable spay and neuter services for pets and feral cats
  • Urban Wildlife Coalition - advocates natural area preservation, wildlife rescue and release
  • Midwest American Bulldog Rescue - rescues bulldogs and pit bulls
  • Carrie Gobernatz Animal Rescue Ranch - rescues horses and other race track animals
  • The Illinois Animal Welfare Networkers Association - a meetup group of 75 volunteers interested in assisting the coalition and staffing the sanctuary

Largely due to the reqThe U.S. uses more chimps for research than any other country in the world. Image by Dylan Walters.uirements of Primates Inc., the coalition prefers to find land in southern Wisconsin, preferably land that is within a one-hour driving radius from Madison.  Madison is the number one city in the nation for the number of monkeys in its labs, roughly 9000.  Since the national U.S. monkey population in labs is about 70,000, that’s more than 10% of the total in Madison alone.  However, the coalition would be happy with sufficient land donated within 30 to 60 minutes of any university in Illinois or Wisconsin.  Kerwin says that a large student volunteer program would be a win/win for everyone  involved.

Providing funding to sanctuaries for great apes in the U.S. is now required by law.

The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act of 2000 mandates funding for the humane retirement of chimps used for human health research.  Kerwin points out the fact that there are approximately 1,000 chimpanzees being used in research, while there are 70,000 monkeys.  She maintains that monkeys’ similarities to both chimpanzees and humans should afford them the same retirement funding as chimpanzees. However to date, there is no federal funding to retire monkeys from research.

Although most studies in Madison conducted by the pharmaceutical industry are “terminal,” meaning the monkeys do not survive, there is still a long waiting list for retirement because of the limited number of retirement facilities nationwide and their associated expense.  

Kerwin has been contacted by six researchers around the country in the last two years.  Even if only 1% of US monkeys used in research are able to retire, 90 is a lot of monkeys!  Zoos generally will not retire a rhesus from the lab because it tends to develop abnormal behaviors, such as fur plucking.   

Kerwin’s vision is to provide a spacious and enriching indoor/outdoor area for retired monkeys  and other abandoned or injured animals.  She seeks to locate in an area with natural vegetation and a rural environment that can buffer the sanctuary.  Anyone who is interested can reach her at