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The centre in Ince Blundell has had at least one dog or cat left on its doorstep, or close by, every fortnight since May, as well as scores of rabbits – and it says it’s preparing itself for many more.
Deb Hughes, PR officer for Freshfields, says: “What we had expected might happen unfortunately is, and we are starting to see pets abandoned in local parks, on our doorstep or down the lane from us.
“We had thought it would start happening in November last year but, with further lockdowns, it started in May/June when restrictions began to lift and people started getting back to normal lives or work, and weren’t home as often.”
She said the centre was not out to judge people, rather to appeal to people who abandon animals to at least give them information to help them look after those that are left.
Deb stresses: “We are not judging, we understand that sometimes things just get too much for people and times are hard for everyone.
“But, we would ask people to help us to help the animal. If we could ask people to bring them to our front door and to let us know, and to perhaps leave a note telling us about their pet – a bit like people did with foundling babies – it would save us from wasting money people have kindly donated to us on things like X-rays and blood tests that they don’t need.
“We anaesthetise animals to neuter them only to discover that they have already been neutered, so a little information would help a lot.”
One of the most common animals being left has been rabbits. Deb says: “Families have bought rabbits for children who were home from school thinking they would make a lovely pet without realising how much work they are – or that two rabbits very quickly becomes 22!
“We have had pregnant rabbits left, rabbits with babies left and we went to one house to collect 22 rabbits which our staff and volunteers stayed up to hand feed every four hours throughout the night.
“Ideally, we don’t want to be in a situation like that so we would ask people to have rabbits neutered; and to realise that rabbits are social creatures which take a lot of looking after and they are hard work.
“Again, we often say that rabbits are the silent sufferers because people buy them, put them in a hutch, and leave them. But they are lonely – that’s why we don’t give rabbits out singly and why we offer a bonding service, albeit that was curtailed in lockdown, to help give them the love they need.”
Deb says Freshfields is ‘bracing’ itself for a flood of unwanted pandemic pets and trying to plan and prepare so that they have the capacity to look after them, and are able to welcome them and make sure they are ‘safe, warm and fed’.
She urged the public to ‘please donate’ anything they could to help Freshfields – which has cared for more than 90,000 animals since it began over 40 years ago – look after these, and other unwanted animals.
“We will never put down a healthy pet, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to rehome them,” she says. “And we are very lucky that the community has taken us to heart and helped us all these years. Any donations to help us do what we do would be very much appreciated.
“People often say, ‘but I can only give £2’. But if 15 people gave £2, that’s £30, the cost of a complete health assessment for a newly arrived, anxious animal. It mounts up, and for very donation, however big or small, the humans and animals at Freshfields say ‘thank you’.”
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