Arrest made in pair of fires at Dresden animal sanctuary

Charlotte’s Freedom Farm fire in Chatham-Kent on July 2, 2020 (Photo via Charlotte’s Freedom Farm Facebook)

A 30-year-old woman is facing multiple charges in connection to two fires at a Chatham-Kent animal sanctuary, one of which killed over 20 animals.

On July 1, 2020, emergency crews were called to a barn fire at Charlotte’s Freedom Farm on Brook Line.

The blaze resulted in the devastating loss of 22 animals, including a rescue dog from Texas, a miniature pony, as well as five cats and several ducks. In addition to the loss of life, the barn was destroyed and several pieces of vital equipment were lost. Damage estimates came it at around $400,000.

Charlotte’s Freedom Farm is home to dozens of different rescue animals, many of which come to the sanctuary with health problems or as orphans before being rehabilitated.

Nearly a year after the first fire, in the early hours of June 20, emergency crews responded to another blaze at the farm when an empty trailer at the back of the property had been set on fire. No animals or humans were injured during the incident, however, damage was pegged around $15,000.


Both fires were deemed suspicious. According to police, the owner of the farm had also received a threatening letter in the mailbox in October 2020.

On Monday afternoon, Chatham-Kent police announced that 30-year-old Christine Rettig of Windsor was arrested on Saturday and charged with uttering threats and two counts of arson following an investigation by the Major Crimes Unit.

Citing the ongoing investigation, officials with Charlotte’s Freedom Farm declined to comment on whether the woman who was arrested had any connection to the farm. Chatham-Kent police also said they could not confirm it.

Screen grab from Charlotte’s Freedom Farm Facebook page on October 18, 2021

Screen grab from Charlotte’s Freedom Farm Facebook page on October 18, 2021

However, a woman named Christine Rettig was identified as the farm’s on-site caretaker following the fire in 2020 and was credited for being the first person to notice the fire and going into the barn to help several animals escape.

In an update after the 2021 fire, Charlotte’s Freedom Farm posted on its Facebook page that “Sanctuary owner, Lauren Edwards, and volunteer, Christine Rettig were quick to detect the flames and call 911.” The Facebook post also noted that the farm had been outfitted with cameras in 2020.

The charges against Rettig have not been proven in court. She was released with a November court date.