It’s easy at stressful moments like these, with Britain in lockdown and the doors of animal charities locked tight, to help the big shelters you love and know.
Britain has so many great institutions, from the RSPCA to Mayhew to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. They work hard to take in abandoned or abused animals and carefully place them in loving homes.
The big shelters survive on donations and legacy payments written into wills. But many also have reserves to fall back on. The Dogs Trust alone had net assets of more than £168 million at the end of 2018. That’s a sizeable rainy-day fund.
Smaller shelters don’t have the same luck. Coronavirus has depleted their resources. Reliant on passing trade, weekend visits from families, perhaps an annual jamboree, many are now running on fumes. They need our help.”
Take the Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare in East Sussex, which costs £8,000 a day to run. It’s a small operation – just 400 animals, including dogs and cats, sheep and donkeys, a lone turkey, an aviary filled with exotic birds, and even a few alpacas.
Raystede is closed, as is its café, which usually earns the shelter £1,000 a day at the height of summer. With no passing trade it’s struggling, and every donation is treated like gold dust.
“Our financial situation at the moment isn’t great,” its spokeswoman Rachel Simm tells me. “We are excited when we get a £100 donation – we call people up individually when they donate that as it’s a huge amount of help.”
Many people have been donating through its wishlist on Amazon. You can buy a parrot-shaped toy for the birds to play with, training pads for puppies, or lightweight coats to keep the donkeys dry. Every little helps.
Raystede’s roster has risen under lockdown. There’s the cat dumped outside its main gate and a trio of little dogs – Dotty, Girly and puppy April – all recovering from domestic abuse. Oh, and the litter of guinea pigs born just the other day.
In the aviary, 150 birds sing their hearts out all day long. “They are super-intelligent and really miss interacting with visitors,” says Simm. “The Amazon gifts have been a Godsend, as when they get bored, they start plucking their feathers out.” She hopes the shelter’s biggest annual earner, a fete that usually generates £25,000, will still take place in June. But more likely it will be cancelled.
Raystede is just one of many small shelters paddling to stay afloat. To pluck a few names at random: Friends of Animals Wales; Three Counties Dog Rescue near Bourne in Lincolnshire; Berwick Animal Rescue Kennels in Northumberland; and the Perthshire Abandoned Dogs Society in Scotland.
There are dozens of others that help abandoned or hurt animals, from hounds to horses to hedgehogs, and they’re all a stone’s throw from your house.
Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and they need our help now more than ever. We are a country full of big charities that do wonderful work. Help them too. But don’t forget the little guy.