Chenoa Manor's Teen Program: Finding Common Ground Between At-Risk Youth and Abused Animals

Everyone and everything deserves a second chance, and veterinarian Rob Teti offers a new perspective on life for abused animals and their human counterparts.

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Teti bought the 25-acre property in 2000, forming his all-volunteer nonprofit three years later. Now, Chenoa is actually two sanctuaries in one. Almost from the start, Teti saw a link between at-risk and overlooked teens and unwanted and abused farm animals. Chenoa serves 300-500 kids a year in small groups of up to 15.  “It’s not so much what I’m doing as just being here,” Teti says. “The experience enriches teens’ lives and opens their eyes. They see themselves as part of something greater, and they see that they, as individuals, matter. I see myself as a facilitator—the one who lets it happen, the person who opens those gates.”

Now a neuroscience major at Temple University, Watson grew up in urban Coatesville, where the only galloping horses he saw were on TV. At Chenoa, he quickly learned to never invade an animal’s space, or you risk being seen as a predator. “I’ve learned about spirituality, too,” he says. “When an animal dies here, it’s different than when a person dies. The other animals don’t mourn. It’s more natural.”

In Chenoa’s unique program, there’s a level playing field, and the fostering of a mutual sense of compassion and respect. If the animals aren’t receptive on a given day, volunteers stay busy doing something else on the farm. “The kids develop
their own personalities in many ways,” says Teti. “Nothing is forced.”

Teti grew up in downtown Kennett Square, though his parents had a farm an hour south of Rome, Italy. As a student at Ursinus College, he majored in biology, but he also took psychology and world literature courses. In 2000, he earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Ross University on the island of St. Kitts.

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