TIVERTON, R.I. — Peace and serenity fill these rolling hills in New England, but a noise from a friendly farm animal is always bound to make its way in.
Alpacas, donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, geese, peacocks, pheasants, and partridges are just some of the animals at West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
They sure seem like the happiest bunch around but make no mistake. This place is no petting zoo.
West Place is a nonprofit with a primary focus on rescuing farm animals from abuse, neglect, and cruelty cases.
Wendy Taylor, the Executive Director, and Founder, explains that reality firsthand.
“Every morning, I open my email, and there is another cruelty case," Taylor said. “Having a house fire and losing my home and losing all my pets in that fire, I needed to find a way to balance the scales to make it right.”
That tragedy, along with the most significant animal cruelty case in the history of the northeast, put into perspective how necessary this work is.
“They are more common than we’d like to believe," Taylor said. “So there were 1,400 animals living in squalor, and there were all in some state of either dead or dying, and the live ones have tumors and boils and open wounds. There are rats running around at your feet. It was unspeakable. There was a hole. There was something missing, no one was rescuing those from severe cases, and I wanted to fill that void.”
Since opening 15 years ago, more rescues like this have popped up across the country. However, there still are not nearly enough resources to help the number of animals who need it.
“It is fascinating how the needs for farm animals aren’t perceived the same because oftentimes farm animals are raised as a commodity," said Thomas Humphrey, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for West Place.
Taylor discusses some of the misconceptions around these animals.
“They are only meant for food. They are only here to serve humans," Taylor said. “Animals that are ultimately going to be food still have the right and still deserve to be treated well while they are here.”
The ASPCA points out that 94% of Americans agree animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty. Take pigs, Diane and Jack, for example.
“They had no hair. They were completely bald. Their skin was gray and cracked and even bleeding," said Patrick Cole, the Director of Development and Communications for West Place.
They were told it was a hospice situation when they took them in, but that’s no longer the case.
“It puts a lot into perspective. What’s important, what’s not," said Jeffrey Patrick Gold, a volunteer. “This abuse and abandonment is systemic and is widespread. It’s got to change.”
“The goal in the future is to expand both physically and with headcount so that we could never have to say no," Humphrey said.
Their successes can be the story for other animals if attention is paid to this problem.
“It’s basically one animal in, one animal out. The demand for our services is so high that we’re always operating at full capacity," Cole said.