We were so proud when the Newport Daily News contacted us for the very first article they've ever done on West Place. And then we go and make the FRONT page of the Saturday Edition! What a thrill. The original article, Tiverton Sanctuary comes to the Rescue, can be seen through NewportRI.com and you can read it here.
Athena Vieira, 16, of Tiverton, offers a snack to Maggie and Sadie, goats rescued from a farm in Westport, Massachusetts, as Sassy peeks in Wednesday. At the West Place Animal Sanctuary, horses roam freely in and out of the stable to feed as they like
Dave Hansen | Staff photographer
By Laura Damon
Daily News staff writer
TIVERTON -- Karl was probably the sickest animal transferred to West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton from a tenant farm in Westport, Massachusetts, last year, according to Wendy Taylor, executive director of the animal sanctuary.
After he and approximately 1,400 other animals were rescued from the Massachusetts farm, Karl, a sheep, spent eight weeks in veterinary care with an infection before he was released to West Place Animal Sanctuary.
The Daily News paid a visit to the 8-acre sanctuary recently and met Karl while he grazed in a pasture.
“ASPCA called me in probably day one of the case,” Taylor said, referring to the large-scale animal cruelty case that shook Massachusetts in 2016.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing animal cruelty, contacted Taylor because they needed assistance with placing some of the larger animals rescued from the Westport farm; Taylor obliged by taking in two goats and sheep from the farm.
The goats, Maggie and Sadie, were happily grazing alongside Karl, occasionally stretching to pluck some leaves from a tree.
Taylor said what distinguishes a sanctuary from a wildlife clinic is that in addition to wildlife the organization cares for large animals, like goats, sheep and horses.
“We’ve never been asked to participate in something nearly that large,” said Taylor, who took in approximately 60 of the 1,400 animals rescued from the Massachusetts farm.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has charged 27 defendants with a total of 151 counts of animal cruelty in the case. All but one of the 27 defendants, which includes 26 farm tenants and the farm owner, Richard Medeiros, have been arraigned on various counts of animal cruelty and their cases are pending.
The mission of West Place Animal Sanctuary is to provide shelter, food and medical care to both injured and orphaned wild waterfowl and game birds, as well as neglected farm animals and elderly horses.
The sanctuary is home to horses, alpacas, sheep, goats, peacocks, partridges, pheasants, ducks, turkeys, swans and geese.
Taylor, who has practiced as a medical malpractice defense attorney for approximately 20 years, opened the sanctuary in her own backyard in 2007.
When asked why she decided to create the sanctuary, Taylor said the idea came to her after a 2003 house fire. “My pets died in the fire,” she said.
In the year and a half it took to rebuild her home, Taylor planned her next step. “I felt like I had to balance the bad with some good,” she said.
A friend of hers suggested a donation to a charity, but Taylor decided to go one step further and create her own nonprofit organization.
She liked the idea of knowing exactly how her money and energies would be spent. “I can open my books and give you a specific number,” she said. “So I know that the money coming in goes to a good cause here.”
The operating budget of the sanctuary is $100,000 annually, and that’s with no overhead expenses like rent or the cost of borrowing tractors, Taylor said. “It’s all by private donations and private foundations,” she said.
The sanctuary is run year-round almost entirely by about 14 volunteers. Ten additional volunteers are added to that roster in the summer, which is the busiest season with crop yields, animal births and construction projects.
Athena Vieira, 16, a student at the Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School in Newport, is a year-round volunteer.
“I’ve been here since that case started and we started taking in animals,” Vieira said, referring to the Massachusetts farm animal cruelty case.
There are eight fields on the sanctuary property enclosed by white fences. The fields are where the animals graze. Standing in one enclosure, surrounded by brown and white alpacas, sheep and goats, Vieira explained the grazing system.
“They rotate with grazing,” Vieira said. Gates are locked to some enclosures and the animals are thus encouraged to explore and find an open enclosure to enter and graze.
This method helps to exercise the animals and “helps challenge their minds,” Vieira said.
Sassy, a retired search and rescue horse who lives at the sanctuary, is an elderly animal who benefits from the mental challenge of rotational grazing, Vieira said.
Birds are currently the majority at West Place Animal Sanctuary.
Because of the acreage of land, “we do what we call a soft release,” Taylor said, meaning when the injured animals recover they are released back into the wild right from the sanctuary.
One particular hill on the sanctuary is favored by the geese to practice their flying, Taylor said.
“It’s great for aerodynamics for them,” she said.
If a bird can’t fly or is otherwise debilitated permanently, it lives at the sanctuary.
One such animal is a Canada goose that was born with no eyes. Though the goose would have surely perished in the wild, “he’s here and he gets to live,” Taylor said. “He’s happy as a clam.”
Currently, West Place Animal Sanctuary is operating close to capacity, Taylor said. If Taylor was faced with a situation “even close to the Westport fiasco, we wouldn’t be able to help as much as we did before,” she said.
“Animals come in faster than money comes in,” Taylor said. “We need to expand; we need to be better funded.”
To make a donation or to learn more about West Place Animal Sanctuary, visit WestPlace.org.