November 26, 2021
By Jacquelyn Voghel
HEALING HANDS: Wendy Taylor, owner and executive director of the West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton, brushes one of her ponies. The animal sanctuary, which cares for neglected and abused farm animals and rehabilitates waterfowl and game birds, has helped more than 1,000 animals in its nearly 15 years of operation.
When farm animals suffer severe neglect and abuse, animal rescue organizations often lack the resources to properly care for them. For almost 15 years, Wendy Taylor has worked to fill this gap.
Taylor launched her animal protection nonprofit West Place Animal Sanctuary in 2007 – four years after her nine pets died in a house fire. After this loss, Taylor wanted to find a way to turn tragedy into a second chance for other animals.
“Humans can be wonderful, and humans can be not so wonderful sometimes,” Taylor said. At West Place, “We feel like we are the stewards of making sure that humans fix those mistakes that they made with farm animals.”
After losing her two dogs, six cats and a goat, Taylor didn’t feel ready to work with house pets. But she soon found that few animal-rescue groups have the resources to care for farm animals. With her 8-acre property, Taylor felt she had the resources to make a difference.
West Place usually takes in new rescues when local authorities or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals alerts them of abused and neglected farm animals, such as horses, pigs, goats, donkeys and waterfowl. Few other organizations in the area can offer the extent of care and resources these animals need, Taylor said.
While West Place does some rehabilitation work, particularly for waterfowl and game birds, most of the animals that come to the sanctuary will remain there for the rest of their lives.
Taylor initially launched the nonprofit expecting it would be more like a hobby than a business, with the opportunity to “save a few farm animals here and there.”
But “there are so many cases of animal neglect, and so many police departments and animal control officers that didn’t know what to do with farm animals,” Taylor said, and demand for the nonprofit’s services swelled. Today, West Place fields calls from around the state and southeastern Massachusetts.
The need for West Place’s resources can outpace demand, Taylor said.
“We’re always running at full capacity, and basically it’s one in, one out,” Taylor said. “So, if we can make the room, we make the room.”
Taylor has also needed to add staff to keep up with demand. For a decade, she continued practicing as a medical malpractice attorney while running the nonprofit without any employees. Within the past year, Taylor has hired two managers to help run the sanctuary, and she also enlists the help of about 60 volunteers.
It’s difficult to say how many animals West Place cares for at a time due to the rapidly changing nature of the work, Taylor said. But since its founding in 2007, the nonprofit has helped more than 1,000 animals.
The sanctuary, which operates on a minimum of $300,000 annually, relies entirely on donations, grants and fundraising, though Taylor said that this funding level is “a shoestring budget” that doesn’t allow the organization to make needed repairs to facilities.
“Whether we like it or not, we keep growing,” Taylor said, “and that’s probably the hardest thing that we do – find the means to keep going.”
But despite these obstacles, Taylor doesn’t see an alternative to moving forward.
“You create something bigger than you,” she said, “and you can’t let it stop, and you can’t walk away.”
OWNER: Wendy Taylor, executive director LOCATION: 3198 Main Road, Tiverton TYPE OF BUSINESS: Animal protection nonprofit EMPLOYEES: Three employees, about 60 volunteers ANNUAL REVENUE FROM CONTRIBUTIONS (2019): $118,000 YEAR FOUNDED: 2007