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Interning for Animals

A Tiverton sanctuary gives critters a second chance and students a shot at career training

July 2022

By Megan Monte

Intern Lillian Hanson caring for goats at West Place Animal Sanctuary

Nestled on eight sprawling acres of farmland in Tiverton is a unique operation serving animals and people alike. West Place Animal Sanctuary wears many hats, and with the Bobbert Memorial Scholarship Fund, the haven is able to provide a rare hands-on learning experience that leaves a lasting impact on students.

Wendy Taylor opened West Place in 2007 after a devastating fire took her nine beloved pets and shifted her focus to helping animals. The nonprofit upholds a few purposes, including functioning as a lost dog shelter for Tiverton and Little Compton and a licensed rehabilitation center nursing injured or orphaned wildlife back to health before releasing them through a calculated reintegration process. But perhaps most importantly, West Place provides care and a forever home for farm animals who have been rescued from cases of abuse, neglect, and cruelty.

West Place helps foster a passion for animal welfare in interns like Faith Mello, pictured

In addition to these services, West Place is a fully functioning farm, growing food for the furred and feathered tenants they shelter via sustainable methods. Grapes and hops are also grown for wine and beer production.

“There is no day off when it comes to animal care,” says Patrick Cole, director of development and communications and one of only three staff members, explaining how their wards’ needs don’t pause for vacations, weekends, or holidays. With such a long list of roles, West Place heavily relies on volunteers, many of whom are students. Through an educational internship program, a symbiotic relationship has blossomed between helpers and animals.

“They’re not just being told what to do; we’re also telling them the why, so they really can leave with an education,” Cole explains of the students in the program, which is sponsored by the Bobbert Memorial Scholarship Fund. Named in memory of the quirky and lovable alpaca who was the face of the sanctuary, the fund enables college and high school students to learn and work at the farm for free. Unlike regular volunteering, the internship functions as an immersive course, requiring time and resources to give students real-world training.

Interns do everything from feeding, cleaning, and grooming to observing medical work and absorbing anatomy and other lessons from the farm, coming away with hands-on experience for those interested in a related career, as well as fostering a work ethic and passion for animal welfare. As a facility focused on animals, Cole says, “It’s one of the few ways we can help people.”

With such dependence on volunteers, West Place is also always happy to welcome a variety of abilities to their team, whether it be gardening, handyman, technical, or other skills. As Cole says, “It really is a unique community,” for humans and beasts.


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