February 22, 2023
By Temi-Tope Adeleye NBC10 News - WJAR
TIVERTON, R.I. (WJAR) — We have heard many warnings about the avian flu in Southern New England and an animal sanctuary in Tiverton most definitely felt the impact.
West Place Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Wendy Taylor said the animal protection organization lost dozens of birds.
"We were the first reported case in the state of Rhode Island. Chances are a wild goose, a Canada goose flying over was shedding the virus and then that landed on our property and our domestic birds were around that," said Taylor. "They quickly contracted it. We started to lose them and when you report to the state, the state comes in and they need to euthanize any birds that they believe were affected, even if they're not showing signs."
The HPAI , a highly pathogenic version of the avian flu, hit the animal paradise last October, taking with it about 36 birds.
Taylor said they buried each turkey, ducks, swan, chicken, and geese on the property. They buried each bird next to their mates and family.
They placed gold plates with their names and day of death on the fence beside their graves.
Taylor said the flu killed almost half of the 36 birds, and the state euthanized the remaining birds.
"We lost every single one of these birds within the same day, and coming and seeing all of their names in recognition of their time with us, it's a very somber area," said Taylor. "It's a very somber place, and I think it always will be."
West Place was closed for four months, tending to their other farm animals as they recovered from the outbreak, and mourned their lost friends.
Taylor said about two dozen peacocks, pheasants, partridges, and ducks survived the unexpected and deadly outbreak.
They reopened on Feb. 22, now able to rescue abused and neglected birds again.
They have also made changes, with more on the way.
Everyone on the property must use a foot bath to wipe their boots as they enter and exit animal pens. They also have plastic booties to wear as they work.
Taylor showed NBC 10 a building that they renovated for their waterfowl.
They still need help building a place for chickens and turkeys because the flu affects them differently.
A Birds of West Place Memorial Fund has been set up on their website to help them during this rough time.
"As much as losing our birds hurt us, and devastated us, we can't let it stop us," said Taylor. "So we're going to keep going, and we're going to come back stronger than we were before."
The team is also shooing away wild birds from their property to limit the possibility of another outbreak.
If you would like to learn more about how to help the West Place Animal Sanctuary, visit their website.