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Animal sanctuary survives Avian Flu, continues saving abused animals

The 70 farm animals at West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton are the lucky ones. Millions of others are not as lucky.

March 10, 2023

By Ryan Belmore

The 70 farm animals at West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton are the lucky ones. Millions of others are not as lucky.

In the United States alone 10 million animals are abused to death each year, according to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). And, according to other organizations, only a tiny fraction of animal abuse cases are reported.

So, the goats, the birds, the donkeys, pigs and cows rescued by West Place are the lucky ones. They will survive.

Sanctuaries like West Place are scattered around the Northeast, all with a similar mission. West Place, like Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, MA or Sunny Meadow in Barre, MA. is dedicated to assuring that these animals live out their lives in peace, far removed from the abusive situations from which they came.

That’s why it was so devasting for West Place when last October many of the birds became ill, diagnosed by the Department of Environmental Management and the US Department of Agriculture as victims of Avian Flu. The Sanctuary, said Wendy Taylor, West Place founder and executive director, virtually shut down.

Some 10 birds had passed before DEM and the USDA arrived. Another two dozen birds were euthanized.

For 123 days, buildings were decontaminated, cleaned and sterilized, said Patrick Cole, West Place Director of Development and Communications. Other measures were put in place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control “Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.”

Taylor suspects the outbreak was the result of “wild Canada geese or other wild fowl” flying over the property and leaving “contaminated droppings.”

Cole said no other animals were infected, nor were any volunteers or staff. He said the Department of Health followed up with all humans that interacted with the birds and found no one with any symptoms.

About a week ago, the quarantine ended and again West Place is accepting birds and other animals that are abuse victims.

Taylor sees this as a warning. The Avian Flu, she said, has been around since 2016-18, and has become more commonplace as millions of wild fowl are exposed to the flu. She cautioned those with domestic birds to be cautious and keep the birds out of “harm’s way.”

Meanwhile, the eight acre sanctuary, founded in 2007 is among only a handful of similar facilities in the Northeast. They are all run by individuals who have a tremendous passion for saving these very fragile animals. Some sanctuaries, like West Place, were born out of tragedy.

Wendy Taylor was a Providence lawyer when she received the call in 2003 that her home on the eight-acre estate, nestled between Weetamoo Woods and Pardon Gray Preserve, was on fire. Inside were her nine pets, dogs and cats and a goat named Mo, who was recovering from a severe disease. All the pets perished in the fire.

Wendy continued her law career a few years before choosing to leave and follow her passion. She had rebuilt her home, earned a wildlife rehabilitation license, and in 2007 established West Place Sanctuary on her property. Funding, she said, comes from contributions and grants.

Now she’d like to expand, eyeing neighboring property of also about eight acres.

The need seems endless. According to PETA every minute an animal is being abused, and 97 percent, according to the organization Last Chance for Animals (LCA), comes from farms.

“They come to us at the hands of humans who have done bad things to them,” Taylor said. Taylor, her volunteers and staff are determined to save as many of these abused animals as they can possibly help.


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