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When you make the ProJo, you know you've made it!

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

So excited that the Providence Journal picked up the great piece filmed about us by the incredible, Jim Hummel. See the original article here, or read it below.

By Jim Hummel / The Rhode Island Spotlight

Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 12:01 AMUpdated Jun 1, 2018 at 12:07 PM

Built and managed by Wendy Taylor, the West Place Animal Sanctuary is a go-to place for wildlife rehabilitation and a sanctuary for farm animals, with dozens of volunteers committed to keeping the operation running smoothly.

TIVERTON, R.I. — One of the first things you notice on a visit to the West Place Animal Sanctuary is that every one of the dozens of farm animals, birds and wildlife has a name.

It’s a lot to keep track of: from Sassy the horse to Marshmallow and Lovey the alpacas, Dottie the chicken, Stumpy the goose and Karl the sheep.

Then there is Peepers, a turkey who came here eight years ago with broken toes, a broken leg and broken wing — but is thriving on an eight-acre tract that has become a refuge for animals that have been abused, neglected, orphaned or injured.

They are here to live out their lives, however long they may be.

“To make sure we get everybody in at night and get the right head count we name them,” said Wendy Taylor, who founded the nonprofit in 2007, eventually trading her job as the managing partner of a law firm in Providence for days on the farm that leave her simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated.

Taylor’s motivation: a fire in 2003 that claimed most of her just-renovated historic home in the southern end of Tiverton, along with dogs, six cats and a goat.

“In order to balance the scales or make things right, maybe I could donate to an animal organization,” Taylor recalled thinking after the fire. “But I was too hands-on of a person, and I thought: maybe I can start my own nonprofit and help just a little bit more.”

She didn’t envision at the time what West Place has become today: a go-to place for wildlife rehabilitation and a sanctuary for farm animals, with dozens of volunteers who descend on the farm every week, committed to keeping the operation running smoothly.

“It is my favorite day of the week,” said Dawn Ferrari, who grew up in Maine but now lives in Newport and began volunteering several months ago for a two-hour shift every Wednesday morning. “It gives me a sense of purpose. It makes me feel like I’m doing something good, and I care so much about animals and I strongly agree with what Wendy is doing here. It just makes me feel really, really good. And I’m proud to be part of this.”

West Place began modestly in 2007: it was just Taylor and a few friends who doubled as board members. A volunteer helped clean the barn on Saturday and they would occasionally open up on weekends for large-group volunteer projects.

Over time, they built a new barn, installed double-fencing around the property, created a 5½-foot-deep pond for waterfowl and put up three greenhouses to grow food for the animals.

“It all came by necessity,” Taylor said. “Obviously if we do waterfowl rehab, we knew we needed a water source for the bird. There was a tiny little barn that was falling down. The new, bigger barn took its place. Then two pastures turned into eight pastures that are now part of a rotational grazing system.”

Along the way, Taylor was certified by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to be a wildlife rehabilitator, after taking classes and tests, working as an apprentice, getting a permit, then eventually a license. This year West Place will rehabilitate about 200 birds, geese and ducks, releasing them into the wild to make room for others coming in. Last week Taylor personally oversaw the every-15-minute feedings of a baby starling that someone found and brought to West Place.

A decade ago she was practicing law, but found the pull of the farm increasingly strong.

“I came home from work one night and my husband said: ‘What are you doing? You can’t do this anymore. You’re working two full-time jobs; you’re half an hour away for 10 hours a day, six days a week, and then when you’re here you’re trying to scramble and make up for this. You’ve got to stop working two jobs. Just pick one, it doesn’t matter which one you choose.’”

She chose West Place.

Taylor said it ultimately was an easy choice, as many of the lawyers in Providence didn’t understand why she devoted so much time to animals. She closed her law practice in early 2013 and officially changed her law license to inactive status on Dec. 31 of last year.

“Now I’m surrounded by 50 volunteers that all get it,” she said. “And they think what we do is amazing. So I’m not a fish out of water anymore. I’m not the oddball. I’m in my element now. I’m surrounded by people who appreciate that West Place exists.”

Taylor also traded lavish vacations to places like New Zealand, Switzerland and Italy for a 48-hour break from the farm once every three or four weeks. It’s one of the first things she learned: the animals don’t take a vacation.

As it has grown, the sanctuary is now is home to ducks, wild and domestic turkeys, geese, swans, chickens, pheasants, partridges, peacocks, horses, a pony, sheep, goats, alpaca and a bunny. The first farm animal was Johnny, a horse that developed a number of medical issues and had gone through several owners who found him too expensive to care for.

The core of volunteers has allowed Taylor to concentrate on the business side of West Place and the perpetual challenge of writing grants and soliciting contributions.

“In order for me to do that part of what it takes to make a nonprofit run, I needed people doing the everyday hands-on care,” she said. “The feeding, the cleaning, the animal enrichment and then just generally giving them love. Something that many of them hadn’t gotten in their former lives.”

Elaina Alzaibak grew up 10 minutes from West Place, but for years had no idea it existed. The pre-veterinary major at Colgate University in upstate New York began volunteering at the sanctuary last summer. This year she is returning as the supervisor of interns, part of an educational component Taylor implemented several years ago that includes a training manual, video and summer programs for children.

“It’s like a little animal family here, learning the names, learning the backstory for them, how they came here: you really get to know the animals and their different personalities,” Alzaibak said. “We have eight alpaca but they all have eight different personalities and it’s so amazing to work with them and get to know them.”

But it is watching Taylor that sold Alzaibak on coming back this summer.

“Her passion for this place is tangible,” she said. “You get here and you just see her excitement, you see her care and I think it helps all of the volunteers and interns; (they) want to live up to her expectations and her dreams for this farm.”

Taylor says the educational component has grown over the years. “Kids can get their education about many things in the summer from many places. They can go to museums, they can go to sailing school, but there aren’t too many places that try to talk about the ethical treatment of farm animals, especially ones that have come from abuse cases.”


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