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Battersea: Life in lockdown

Ever wondered what is happening to the animals currently being cared for at rescue centres across the UK? Hollie-Ella caught up with the team at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to find out.

When founder Mary Tealby opened ‘The Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs’ in 1860, she made a promise: Never to turn away an animal in need. Today’s health crisis sees many of Battersea’s dedicated staff and loyal volunteers ensuring that promise is kept, by staying on at work and even signing up to foster animals in their own homes.

First impressions

Back in the Spring of 2018, I was invited down to Battersea HQ in south west London, where I met dozens of playful dogs eager to make friends and affectionate cats seeking a safe future. One particular inmate I recall was a sweet natured, long-haired lurcher named Archie. Brought in as a stray, I am hopeful lockdown sees Archie bounding around a garden somewhere, with an endless supply of cuddles and playtime, but most of all I hope he is now getting the love he should have had all along.

Remembering Archie, I wanted to reach out once again to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to get an insight into what life is like in lockdown for the charity’s staff and residents….

battersea rescue dog lurcher
battersea rescue dog lurcher

Rescue efforts in lockdown

During the week prior to the UK going into official lockdown, Battersea successfully re-homed 86 dogs and 69 cats. For comparison, during the same week the previous year, less than half that number of animals found new homes. This was heart-warming news, revealing that amidst a global health crisis many Brits’ first thought was of unwanted animals in need of help.

Indeed, since lockdown was announced, the centres confirm they have been inundated with offers to foster, volunteer and permanently adopt animals still in care. (Whilst the charity are hugely grateful for this response, they have temporarily suspended new applications).

smudge battersea cat
tulip battersea dog

Happy endings

‘All three centres are now closed to the public, but many of our animals are now in loving homes or out on temporary foster with staff and volunteers,’ Battersea’s Head of Operations, Rob Young tells me. ‘Battersea are still caring for around 100 animals across the centres and working hard to ensure each and every dog and cat continues to get the treatment, care and interaction they need.’

One lucky pup who found a forever home before lockdown is Tulip, a four-year-old mongrel, who had been in residence for 110 days – a good deal more than the average stay of just over a month. Feline friendship blossomed too, with 10-year-old short-hair Smudge, finding a new home, where, Rob assures, me he will spend his days ‘rolling around and giving his new human friends plenty of affection.’

claire horton with her battersea dog

Dedicated staff

Awarded a CBE this year in recognition of her service to animals, Battersea’s Chief Executive, Claire Horton is proud her team’s passion for the work they do, revealing that their dedication ‘knows no bounds’. For those animals remaining in their care, staff are coming to work every day, not only to care for the animals, but ensure they are exercised and loved during this time. ‘They are not and never will be forgotten, rest assured.’

How to help

It costs over £50,000 per day to keep the doors of Battersea’s three centres open. When asked how the public can continue to support the charity during this time, Claire was clear: ‘I would like to thank our supporters…Battersea simply could not exist without you. If you would like to help us further, it would be hugely appreciated if you would consider donating some money that will directly help us continue caring for our dogs and cats inside our centres and help Battersea continue to help animals outside our gates and in wider communities, as we forge on through this heartbreaking national crisis.’

For ways to lend your support to Battersea please click here.

Interested to find out how dogs are helping keep us sane during lockdown? Click here to read the article.

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