Meet the Woman Who Gave Up Everything to Save Special-Needs Goats: 'It's Not Work; It's My Passion'

Leanne Lauricella runs a goat sanctuary in New Jersey where she rehabilitates 85 Instagram-famous special-needs goats

Photo: Courtesy Goats of Anarchy

Leanne Lauricella gave up a cushy life in New York City and a six-figure salary to follow her passion for rehabilitating goats in need — and accidentally found Instagram fame along the way.

The corporate events planner, now 44, was used to a lifestyle where she could get her hair and nails done and dress up for cocktail parties when she moved to Oxford, New Jersey, in 2014 with her husband.

She passed goat farms every day on her way to and from N.Y.C., and one day, she visited one with her husband.

“I just fell in love,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “A short time later, I came home with two baby goats.”

She soon found she just couldn’t stop adopting them, and brought home three more goats within three months.

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Courtesy Goats of Anarchy

“The more time I spent outside working with them and cleaning and picking up poop, I loved it,” she says. “I became a crazy goat person. I just didn’t want to go to work anymore.”

She made two big life changes around the same time.

One day, a co-worker brought the often horrific practices of factory farming to her attention and after googling and watching videos, Lauricella decided she could no longer eat meat.

“I became vegetarian on the way home from work that day,” she says.

Soon after, she quit her corporate job, went from vegetarian to vegan, and traded in her Mercedes for a tractor. “I went from making six figures to zero figures — I was terrified,” Lauricella says.

She also started an Instagram account for her goats. In trying to come up with names for her new pets, Lauricella turned to the show she was binge-watching at the time, Sons of Anarchy. After naming her first five goats after characters from the show, she decided to name her goat Instagram page Goats of Anarchy.

On her first day of unemployment, Lauricella’s Instagram had 2,000 followers, but then Instagram featured two of her goats, Jax and Opie, on its main page.

WATCH THIS: Jon Stewart Helps Rescue Goats That Wandered Onto NYC Railway

“I got like, 30,000 or 40,000 new followers that day,” she says. “And it happened to be the first day of me not having a job, so I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a sign.'”

Courtesy Goats of Anarchy

That same year, Lauricella was asked to foster two goats, Ansel and Petal, who were sick with e.coli., recently rescued from an animal cruelty case.

“I had no intentions of ever getting any more goats,” Lauricella says. “I was good with my five. I said I would foster them and they were super sick, like on death’s door. I rehabilitated them and loved it.”

Now, she runs a goat sanctuary in Hampton, New Jersey, where she rehabilitates 85 Instagram-famous special-needs goats that farms with fewer resources might have to euthanize.

Her Instagram has 565,000 followers, and her social media fans help pay for care and surgeries for the herd, many of whom have lost limbs to frostbite and use wheeled carts or prostheses to get around.

Courtesy Goats of Anarchy

“People don’t realize goats have such personalities,” she says. “They have best friends. They have feelings.”

Lauricella also receives charitable donations via the funding site Patreon and writes children's books, but money is still tight. Around the time she started Goats of Anarchy, Lauricella’s husband gave up his job on Wall Street to pursue his own dreams: selling custom Corvettes. Between the two of them, Lauricella says they took nearly an 80 percent pay cut.

“I haven’t been on vacation in five years,” she says. “But it’s not work. It’s just my life, and it’s my passion.”

For more on Goats of Anarchy, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

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