Animal welfare in Norfolk is at ‘crisis point’
06:30 29 July 2014
© Archant Norfolk 2014
Animal welfare in Norfolk is at ‘crisis’ point according to the founders of a prominent charity, who say today’s ‘throw-away society’ is partly to blame for a rapid increase in stray and abandoned animals.
ADAM LAZZARI reports.
A telephone call came into the People for Animal Care Trust (PACT) office in mid Norfolk from the Wirral, Merseyside, this week.
The caller asked if the charity could take in 12 cats as he was moving to a smaller home.
George Rockingham, 75, who founded PACT with his wife Chris in 1995 said: “The fact that we are getting calls from so far away highlights the real crisis the animal welfare industry is in at the moment.
“They will have places similar to ours closer to them, but they are all full.
“We’ve put the 12 cats on our waiting list. They will be 12 of 50 or so cats that we turn down this week.”
PACT, based at River Farm, Woodrising, near Dereham, primarily cares for animals in Norfolk and north Suffolk.
The charity rescues, rehabilitates and, where possible, re-homes neglected, injured and abandoned animals, many of which have suffered abuse.
Fifteen years ago, PACT cared for 150 animals. It now takes care of about 1,500, and animals that are not at risk of death are often placed on a waiting list.
Mr Rockingham said the pressures on animal welfare charities have increased significantly over the last six years.
He said: “Everybody is wanting to get rid of their pets today – it’s part of the throw-away society that now exists.
“There is not that respect for animals there was in the past where people kept their pets for life.”
Mr Rockingham said the main reason people want to get rid of their pets is because they don’t insure them and cannot afford vet fees.
Another is, due to economy, people often lose their home and move to rental accommodation where landlords do not allow pets.
Other reasons for animals being abandoned include illness and death of owners and relationship break-ups where neither partner wants responsibility for the pet.
* One of the more unusual services offered by PACT is its therapy room. Co-founder Chris Rockingham recovered from a nervous breakdown before she established the charity and found the company of animals to be a crucial part of her recovery. PACT offers a comfortable room where people who are suffering similar problems can relax in the company of cats.
* PACT helps police, councils, social services and letting agencies by getting involved with animals of all types, when they are left behind in the home. They help police when animals, particularly swans, hold up traffic, often on the A11.
* PACT is the first organisation to be contacted by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital when they have a patient who has left home in an emergency, leaving behind pets that need attention.
* PACT rescued more than 2,000 animals in 2012 including 1,185 wild animals. They took care of 117 hedgehogs during the winter.
* PACT provided companion animals to more than 700 residents in Norfolk in 2013 and released 709 healthy animals back into the wild.
* PACT is currently running a campaign to raise £60,000 to open a new wildlife facility at Woodrising. This is hoped to include pens for water birds; a treatment room and theatre; a small animal area where hedgehogs and other small mammals can be safe and warm; and aviaries and outside pens where the larger animals and birds can recuperate.
Mr Rockingham said added pressure is put on PACT because it is now the only organisation in Norfolk which will go out after a running stray animal or other animal emergency 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
The charity is also suffering from a significant drop in donations from the public.
PACT employs 34 paid staff at the sanctuary and across its eight charity shops which are supported by around 60 volunteers.
It needs to raise £1,200 every day to continue running its services.
Signs for optimism
PACT’s work to meet its demanding challenges will be significantly boosted by the reopening of its Fakenham shop and forthcoming opening of a new King’s Lynn store.
This is due to open on King’s Lynn High Street in the next few weeks and will be PACT’s ninth shop, adding to shops in Dereham, Watton, Swaffham, Fakenham and four in Norwich.
The Fakenham shop was reopened by town mayor Jeremy Punchard earlier this month after it was shut for six weeks for essential repairs and maintenance.
It is estimated PACT will have lost out on about £8,000 from the closure, so people are being urged to use the shop and help the charity to recoup some of those funds.
A third of this comes from its shops with the rest from donations, wills and fund-raising events.
Mr Rockingham said: “We have a very loyal group of supporters and we are just about muddling through.
“But we can’t keep relying on them and there is no doubt we need help now more than ever.”
Despite the challenges there are causes for optimism.
PACT reopened its Fakenham shop on Thursday, which was closed for six weeks for essential repairs, and a new PACT shop will open in King’s Lynn High Street in the next few weeks.
Mr Rockingham said: “We have got to be optimistic. We can’t let the animals down and whatever happens we will carry on doing the best we can.”
For more on PACT and how you can help, go to www.pactsanctuary.org or call 01362 820775.
Do you run a charity which needs more support? Email firstname.lastname@example.org