Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight: Westerly Animal Shelter

Most people love and care for their pets but what about the less fortunate animals that don’t have homes or people to take care of them. In Westerly we are fortunate to have a wonderful facility – the Westerly Animal Shelter – staffed by dedicated people, to help the animals in need, but it wasn’t always like that.

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Only a few years ago animals were housed at the Westerly Transfer Station. Larry Hirsch and a group of concerned Westerly citizens created the nonprofit organization Stand Up For Animals (SUFA) in 2002. The goal was to create a dedicated space to better care for stray dogs, cats, and little critters. To reach that goal they needed to raise enough funds to build a state of the art facility.

I spoke with Larry about how it all started.

“If you ever saw where these animals were housed, it was inhuman. That place had to go. I went to the Westerly Town Manager, Joe Turo, and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what, if you can raise that kind of money we’ll give you the land but you’ll never do it.’”

A community’s generosity

It turned out that Joe underestimated the generosity of the citizens of Westerly and over 2.2 million dollars was raised. With funding in hand SUFA was able to build the Westerly Animal Shelter which opened in 2009.

Improvements to the facility have been ongoing over the years. The land across the road from the shelter has been converted into a dog park with three separate large enclosures. The dog park was built on land that needed rehabilitation and the whole area was covered with a plastic cap. Because of this no trees can be planted so pavilions were built to give the dogs and humans a place to rest and get out of the sun. One of the enclosures is dedicated to the shelter dogs so they can get exercise and play time.

Boots on the ground

I met Nikea Killam, Westerly Animal Shelter coordinator/ Animal Control, at the shelter to learn about the facility and the work they do there.

“Our mission is to maintain a state of the art premier shelter, adoption facility, and regional outreach center to promote the health and welfare of lost or abandoned pets and to educate those who care for them.

The Animal Shelter Department is part of the Town of Westerly’s municipal government and offers many services and programs. We’re responsible for the impoundment, adoption, and safe keeping in the event of emergency of pets in the community. We also offer educational resources.

The shelter provides a clean, safe, loving, healthy environment until animals find their forever homes. We provide community outreach through our volunteer program, microchip-wellness clinics, and an annual rabies clinic. All pets leaving the shelter are spayed, neutered, and current on vaccinations through our onsite vet care program.”

Asking Larry how the shelter had contributed to the welfare of animals in Westerly he responded, “Look at this shelter and all that it does for the community. This is what I call progress because it is a no-kill shelter. No healthy animal is going to be put to sleep and that’s the goal. A person doesn’t have to go and spend thousands of dollars on a designer dog. We have wonderful mixed breed dogs here at the shelter and they’re the best dogs in the world.”

Westerly Animal Shelter Testimonial

In my own experience I’ve found this to be true. In 2016 we adopted a sweet little beagle mix from the Westerly Animal Shelter, her name’s Lucy and Lucy has been a joy in our lives.

If you’d like more information about the Westerly Animal Shelter you can call 401-584-7941 or visit their website at You’ll be glad you did!

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  1. Greg this is beautiful.. This brought tears of joy to my eyes as an animal lover myself..
    And a big THANK YOU you to Larry Hirsch, and everyone who made this possible.
    FINALLY, we are speaking for the animals that cannot speak for themselves.. They are so beautiful so unconditional, they bring so much joy and happiness into our lives. They fill the void, they complete us, they’re absolutely amazing. Not to mention they’re unique and special in their own way.
    Anyway this piece makes my heart sing, great soul food. So thank you to Stand Up For Animals, Westerly Animal Shelter the amazing staff and everyone that volunteers, and everyone who loves animals and is kind and compassionate to animals.. Thank you Thank you Thank you

  2. Thanks Christine for your comments. Your thoughts about our furry friends are right on target. Greg did a wonderful job on this topic. He is works are wonderful. Larry

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