Turkey Rescued From Becoming Thanksgiving Dinner Is Now a Pet

NICOLE PELLETIERE

A turkey named Leon has become a lovable pet at an California animal sanctuary, mere weeks before Thanksgiving.

"He's definitely a pet turkey, absolutely," Christine Morrissey, manager of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, told ABC News. "Everybody is just swooning over him. He has just captured our hearts in the short time he's been with us at the sanctuary. We are so privileged and happy to save his life where so many other turkeys, especially in the month of November, are slaughtered for food."

"Turkey are capable of feeling happiness, joy as well as pain and suffering," she added. "We want our message and our work to show that these animals deserve our protection."

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Leon the turkey was rescued after he was found wandering the streets of Oxford, California, Morrissey said.

After a stay at a local animal shelter, he arrived at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary earlier this month.

"Beyond that, nobody know what his circumstances were -- whether he was dumped, or abandoned or got loose somehow," Morrissey said. "With any animal that's been found as a stray ... it's pretty common that in the rescue world the animal will be standoffish, timid or not wanting [to be] in close proximity of people."

But Morrissey said she and the rest of the staff quickly realized that Leon was no ordinary bird.

"He has been a love-bug since the point of being rescued," Morrissey said. "He like hugs and kisses on the top of his head and getting belly rubs, which is something dogs love as well. His personality has been very sweet and he has gotten more and more interested in being our companion in the sanctuary."

Leon is at the age when a turkey would be slaughtered for Thanksgiving, Morrissey said. But now, Leon is considered a pet and will join 10 other rescued turkeys who live on the property.

On Nov. 12, Leon was honored with his "friends" at the seventh annual "Toast to the Turkeys" fundraiser celebration.

Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary is "very strict" on how it screens adopters to ensure all its animals, if adopted, are going to homes as companions and not to be killed for food, Morrissey said.