Farm Animal Adoption Center Works to Acquaint Children with Animals

If you're looking to adopt a horse or goat, goose or chicken, pig or guinea pig, rabbit or hamster, bird or turtle, and of course, a dog or cat, Nevins Farm is the place to go.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' 55-acre facility also helps to acquaint children with various animals, even if they're not ready to take one home.

"It's a pretty unique place. There are not very many shelters in the country, never mind Massachusetts, that have a farm animal adoption center as well as one for small animals," Nevins Farm project director Jill O'Connell said. In fact, it is the only farm animal adoption in the state.

About 75,000 people visit Nevins Farm annually to see the 7,000 animals that come through the facility. Andover firefighter Dan Guillet recently took his two young daughters to the center for a look-see.

"This one's a little timid with animals," he said about his 3-year-old daughter, Molly, who said she liked the cats best.

Kellie Priest, 17, of West Newbury, was there to pick out a dog.

"I'm getting a Christmas present today for me," said Priest, whose mother said she would adopt the pet for her.

Priest and her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, already have taken home two rabbits from Nevins Farm.

"We come here all the time. If we're going to the mall, we'll stop in because we love animals," Victoria Priest said.

The farm is 30 miles north of Boston and sits on a rural swath of land between Interstate 93 and Route 28, just north of Methuen's town center.

O'Connell said the center takes in about 7,000 animals each year. People wishing to adopt must show they have a suitable home for the pet in question. For horse adoptions, three interviews are required, and a Nevins Farm representative visits the potential new home before signing off on the move.

Nevins Farm is named for Harriet Nevins, a wealthy Methuen benefactor who donated the property to the MSPCA in 1917. George and Connie Noble of Concord donated the money to build the 18,000-square-foot state-of-the-art adoption center building that opened two years ago.

The facility relies entirely on private donations to fund its operations. O'Connell said there are about 30 paid staff members and some 400 volunteers to keep the animals clean, fit and happy.

"We rely heavily on our volunteers," she said.

Among Nevins Farm's services are its equine ambulance program and a 24-hour veterinary referral service. There also is the Hillside Acre pet cemetery and a pet loss program, which makes counselors available to pet owners who are distraught over the death of a loved one.

Nevins Farm is not a pet store. O'Connell said the MSPCA does not allow people to adopt animals with the intention of giving them as a gift to someone else. They do make exceptions for parents choosing pets for their children. The center encourages people to take a dog for a walk for spend some time around a given animal before settling on it for adoption.

The center charges adoption fees to cover costs of spaying or neutering, vaccinations and other medical procedures. The fee for a dog is $225. For cats, it's $105. The cost for a horse can vary between $500 and $4,000.

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The Associated Press

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