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A Home For Cast-Offs

The Sakonnet Times', Bruce Burdett, works his magic in this article, in it's entirety, below.

Bryant University student AJ Levine takes a selfie with Bobbert, one of eight alpacas at West Place Animal Rescue. Richard W. Dionne photos

By Bruce Burdett TIVERTON — Knock-kneed Peepers the turkey hobbles about on deformed toes.

Bobbert the alpaca was cast off when he grew too big for the petting zoo business.

Cleveland the sheep was days from being born when his mother was rescued from a planned cult sacrifice.

Baby the swan’s leg was severed by fishing line but then surgically reattached.

And Blackie the duck’s toes froze off after fraternity brothers stole him, set him up as part of a scavenger hunt then left him in the snow.

They — except now for Cleveland — are among the happy band of misfits, orphans, castoffs and victims of accidents and cruelty who now call Tiverton’s West Place Animal Rescue their home. After a long stay, Cleveland and sibling were adopted out to a new home in Tiverton this week where he will earn his keep by keeping the lawn mowed.

From varying degrees of misery, they all find themselves under the care of Rescue owner/operator Wendy Taylor Humphrey in one of the town’s prettiest places.

Ms. Humphrey said she has always loved animals — in fact soon owned a houseful of them after buying the 3198 Main Road Dr. Samuel West Place.

With eight acres, farm, pond and wide open spaces backing up to the 700-acre Weetamoo Woods and Pardon Gray Preserve open space lands, “It’s hard to imagine a better place for an animal.”

But on Feb. 24, 2003, she was working in Massachusetts an hour and a half from home (she is a Providence lawyer) when she got word that there was a fire at home. She raced home to find that her two dogs, six cats and a goat named Moe had perished — overcome by smoke.

She was inconsolable for a while, she said, but, partly on the advice of friends, found solace in caring for animals in need of help.

She trained under Kristin Fletcher to become a wildlife rehabilitator “and soon we started taking animals in — just a few at first —farm animals, songbirds ... baby songbirds eat every 20 minutes” and feedings soon became part of the unwritten job description for her patient paralegals and secretaries.

When you have the space and know how to care for orphaned and unwanted animals, “it’s hard to stay small for long,” Ms. Humphrey said. “Word gets around.”

Word did get around and soon creatures in need were arriving from all over — geese from Portsmouth, ducks from Westport — “often just dropped off here with a ‘Could you take care of this hurt mallard duck that we found?'”

There was the turkey that a couple of golfers found in Bristol. “They thought it was a duck and put it in a bucket of water. (The turkey) did not appreciate that.”

There was the day she was work-bound “wearing my lawyer suit” when she was diverted to a swan in trouble on a I-195 overpass in Swansea. She got a police escort to that one.

One temporary resident, a black swan that was unable to fly, won newspaper fame when he was swept off Block Island by Hurricane Irene and was rescued from the surf 14 miles away in Westerly. He wound up at West Place Animal Sanctuary where he recuperated before a return to Block Island.

“He has done so much traveling,” Ms. Humphrey said at the time. “It’s amazing that he made it.”

At the moment, the menagerie numbers in the forties — eight alpacas, a few sheep, a horse named Sassy and assorted swans, ducks, turkeys, geese ...” In spring, that number can more than double as people bring in orphaned wildfowl and other newborns. There have also been cows and goats, all of whom munch on grass in a neatly arranged series of fenced pens.

“And the amazing thing is that they all get along so well."

Last week, as she led a group of Bryant College students around (they were there to help

with the business side and website), ducks, swans and turkeys walked up together to greet the group. “They all seem to respect one another — that shouldn’t happen but it does. It’s weird and quite satisfying.”

Elsewhere, the alpacas swarmed a fence and willingly snuggled up to the students and posed for selfies.

It is satisfying and also loads of work that doesn’t fit into a law schedule (she also serves on the Tiverton Zoning Board of Review). Her husband, Thomas Humphrey (he works for Schneider Electric) helps with building and maintaining barns and shelters, volunteers do much of the day-to-day feeding and chores and a man visits weekly to clean out the stalls (he’s the only one who is paid).

They release creatures to the wild when practical, seek new homes for the residents when possible, “but some are pretty clearly here for life.” And they’ve had “repeat customers” who’ve found their way back from the wild. “It’s obvious that they know their way around when they get back — they’re right at home.” And a few, given the opportunity for a return to the wild, “chose not to go anywhere. I can’t force them out.”

All of those animals have big appetites and sometimes require veterinary care which is why grants like that from the Rhode Island Foundation are so welcome.

“I just put in an order for 150 bales of hay from one place, 50 bales from another ... When we started it cost $4 a bail. Now it’s $12.95.”

Veterinarian Ryan Loiselle (Salmon River Vet) comes by to do periodic wellness checks and responds to emergencies.

Some of the animals help pay their way with eggs that they sell with summer vegetables at

a roadside stand. But mostly it’s grants, donations — “whatever we can get."

They welcome all the help they can get. To learn more about West Place, visit their website or Facebook page.


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