We are so very proud of Wendy, and no one deserves it more! Rhode Island Monthly gave her the royal treatment, with professional photo shoot and all. The entire magazine spread can be seen here, and the excerpt on our executive director is below. Doesn't she look like a warrior princess?!
2017 RHODE ISLANDERS OF THE YEAR
Fifteen locals made the Ocean State a better place this year — not because it's their job, but because it's what they felt called to do.
December 21, 2017 RIM Staff
photo by Alex Gagne
Wendy Taylor got the call last summer from an ASPCA official: could she come to Westport and help rescue 1,200 animals discovered in horrific conditions on a tenant farm? When she arrived, she says, it was an awful scene. “With a situation like that, you have to put blinders on to save the ones you save.”
Taylor spent six days transporting sick and emaciated goats, sheep, dogs, rabbits and horses to a safe haven. She wound up fostering sixty-seven of them herself — pheasants, ducks, quails, partridges and even thirty-nine Japanese koi — at West Place Animal Sanctuary, the nonprofit Tiverton refuge she’d created years before. After being rehabbed, most were returned to the wild.
West Place cares for injured and orphaned wild birds as well as farm animals and abandoned horses. This fall, swans, turkeys, pheasants, chickens, a pony and an alpaca are among Taylor’s 200-plus long-term guests.
West Place wasn’t always this brimming. In 2003, Taylor was at her law office when she learned her house was on fire, causing extensive damage. Worse, her beloved pets — two dogs, six cats and a goat — perished. “Losing possessions is one thing,” she says. “Animals is quite another.”
Devastated, she considered donating to an animal welfare foundation in their honor but decided, instead, to start her own, focusing on small farm animals, like sheep and goats, as well as a baby starling she rehabbed and named Skylar. That triggered her interest in wild animals, she says.
For years, Taylor continued handling medical malpractice cases, representing clients including Lifespan and doctors. Every day, she was up at 5 a.m. running the sanctuary, along with volunteers, for several hours before and after work, arriving at the firm where she was managing partner just after 9 a.m., and not getting to bed till late in the evening.
Over time, the line between working at the sanctuary and practicing law started to blur. It was common to see Taylor wheeling two hand trucks with animal carriers, five to six feet high, carrying baby song birds, in and out of the court house and her office. “One time, I took a deposition with two baby birds under my desk,” she says. “The other lawyers thought I was the craziest person they ever met.”
“Baby song birds need to eat every fifteen minutes and they chirp when they’re hungry,” she explains.
“Clients could hear them when I was on the phone and I’d say I have my window open. After a year, I realized this wasn’t acceptable so I transitioned to water fowl and game birds. They’re pretty sufficient. You could leave them most of day.”
Five years ago, she pretty much wrapped up her practice although she still has a handful of clients. She jokes that as a kid, watching “LA Law,” a TV show about a glitzy law firm, is the reason she became a lawyer. As for her life then versus now? “I love both, they’re both worthwhile,” she says. “I tried to help people as best I could as a lawyer; now I care for animals who can’t speak for themselves. My experience as a lawyer helps tremendously, with grant writing and balancing a budget, although with one profession I made a lot of money. Now I don’t make any money.”
Taylor and her husband, Thomas Humphrey, share their house with two dogs and a cat. Kind of pedestrian, she agrees, compared to the exotic menagerie residing at the sanctuary. “My husband helps with plumbing, electric, carpentry. He’s indispensible.”
The sanctuary’s annual budget is $100,000, funded through donations and foundations. Taylor hopes to launch a capital campaign to buy more land and buildings, and continues to assist the Rhode Island SPCA. “I don’t have kids, I don’t have that kind of legacy,” she says. “West Place will be our legacy.”
– Sarah Francis