Frances M Wells Award - Robin Plourde

Robin Plourde doesn’t shy away from a challenge. While volunteering at Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue (CDHR) six years ago, she adopted a horse named Omen who kept being returned after several previous adoptions. Undaunted, she rescued even more horses from auctions, where typically horses are destined to be food.

Perhaps her biggest challenge was soon after when she and her husband Kerry visited a property with a sanctuary. The owners of the facility needed to move, as it was too big for them to manage. “My husband and I looked at each other and knew this was what we wanted to do,” Robin recalled. “There was so much work to be done, including putting a front on the barn we currently use, fencing, stalls, water and electricity to the barn, and so much more.”

The end result is Whip City Animal Sanctuary, which the pair founded in 2020. Whip City’s mission is to provide long-term care for surrendered, neglected, and abused farm animals. The sanctuary supplies shelter, feed, and veterinary care services to ensure that every animal gets the chance to live out the remainder of their lives in a comfortable and safe environment.  

Robin’s devotion to animals led to her receiving the Frances M. Wells Award, which is given to individuals recognized for significant contributions to the health and welfare of animals and is named after one of Dakin’s most notable early benefactors.

Robin and Kerry live on-site at the sanctuary in Westfield, each of them with full-time remote jobs. Initially, the pair were able to handle the demands of the sanctuary themselves, but things shifted after a couple of months. “I had a full-time job, along with two part-time jobs, and my husband had a full-time and a part-time job,” recalled Robin. “We opened up the sanctuary to visits and a couple of people asked if they could volunteer. As we grew, we increased our volunteers and still kept growing.”  Robin and Kerry are grateful for “the dedicated volunteers” who enabled Whip City Animal Sanctuary to flourish.

Her motivation to keep working so hard for animals, according to Robin, is simple. “Each of the animals here needs this place. Their fate was up in the air, and now they know they are safe and loved and will be forever. Animals speak to let us know what their needs are. They do not speak our language, but if you pay attention, you will know what they are saying. The animals appreciate us and each one, from a chicken to a draft horse, and all in-between, appreciates what we do for them.”

Robin and Kerry’s work saves animals from uncertain fates. “Animals, especially farm animals, are usually required to do something for humans,” she explained. “Once they are unable to do the job, they are no longer ‘worthy’ to stay where they are. They go to auctions and are usually bought for food. When they no longer have a ‘use’ for humans they can come here. There are no expectations for them here.”

Robin gets the greatest satisfaction from seeing the change that occurs when taking in an animal who never had a good experience with people. “They are scared, and they’re feeling the ‘fight or flight' impulse when humans approach. The transformation that happens once they realize not all humans are bad is such a wonderful thing. The dullness fades from their eyes, leaving this beautiful brightness in its place, and it makes this all worth it.”

The couple shares their home with their two dogs, Little Joe and Jake.