Animal welfare in Norfolk is at ‘crisis point’

PUBLISHED: 06:30 29 July 2014

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© 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.

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising - Chris and George Rockingham. Picture: Matthew Usher.Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising - Chris and George Rockingham. Picture: Matthew Usher.


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.

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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.

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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.

Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.Feature on PACT Animal Sanctuary in Woodrising. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“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.

About PACT

* 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 or call 01362 820775.

Do you run a charity which needs more support? Email


  • Well my dear you take the prize for misunderstanding my comment. MacMillan are a wonderful charity and I do not wish to dismiss their work in any way - they are NOT a research charity. They are a caring charity who support families in the battle against cancer. I am talking about the giant research charities who make many individuals very comfortable out of charity money. Money donated to find a cure. So much research has already shown that prevention is the only real weapon we have against cancer but the big charities won't push for prevention when they are making so much money out of it existing. Maybe you need to do some research of your own into charities and their finances Larson E. Whipsnade as you may surprise yourself.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • "....For instance, why would a Cancer charity try to find a cure or prevent cancer when so many people in the charity sector are making so much money out of it....". I am used to reading stupid and thoughtless comments on here , but you can claim first prize. Macmillan nurses just interested in making money for themselves out of cancer are they ? . What kind of sick and disturbed mind could come up with that one. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • Quite agree with Blister - why would any UK charity waste precious funds on rescuing single animals from other countries when they can't cope with what's going on here in the UK? If they want to help animals abroad then fundraise and use the funds to improve conditions and create rescue facilities in that country rather than spending hundreds on one animal! I guess that wouldn't be as good a fundraising opportunity to the organisation? PACT are notoriously great fundraisers in our area and are apparently partial to bending the truth to suit their fundraising efforts - good on them IF they are putting those funds to good use. Rescuing one dog from Bulgaria (or wherever) seems like a total waste of funds to me. With any successful charity I wonder if they have a vested interest in maintaining the problems they are meant to be conquering? For instance, why would a Cancer charity try to find a cure or prevent cancer when so many people in the charity sector are making so much money out of it? Why do the RSPCA spend so much money on TV advertising to raise money from donors yet don't put anything into TV advertising to encourage neutering or responsible pet ownership? Why aren't International Horse Welfare actively campaigning about the horse racing industry? Small charities seem to be far more active and far more focused on the real issues - surely they just need betterstricter regulations to control those who do it wrong? Daisy Roots is right - any nutcase can open an animal rescue organisation but they need rules and regs to make sure they're not as bad as the abusers! There's one group in Norwich running a false charity shop - they say they're raising money for animals (the 'lady' calls her shop Help Every Animal Live but where does the money go? No rescues I have spoken to have received any substantial amount from her!) REGULATIONS NEED TIGHTENING FOR CHARITIES and the Charity Commission needs to put more effort into confirming charities are acting within their objectives. I say all this but I admit I do wholly support some of the organisations in Norfolk because I have taken time to know more about them BEFORE I donate.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • Its the caged hens I do not agree with, not the lobbying

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • IMO none of them should have charitable status unless they campaign for dog and horse licences and much stricter controls on keeping pets in confined spaces. I would ban keeping caged birds hamsters rabbits and reptiles-large aviaries and outdoor enclosures only. When one of the charities spends fortunes lobbying against caged hens ( which I do not agree with) live exports etc but fails to advocate the same treatment for domestic pets they something is badly wrong.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • I do not include PACT when I say part of the problem with the animal charities ( and others ) is that the main ones we are all aware of take the money donated to pay wages to the chief execs. and all those at their H.Q's which leads to people being reluctant to donate money, understandably, and also means it puts many off offering their time to work voluntary. We need more rescues like PACT and not those that are just eccentric people who take on rescuing animals and end up with more than they can cope with, they are worse than the bad owners. Personally I think there should be a law that all animals are neutered, but, how this could be achieved I don't know.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • Without referring in any way to PACT the activities of some animal welfare charities verge on hypocritical and some are regarded as being infiltrated by hard line political activists with an agenda of undermining the meat production industry and medical research and using illegal means If an animal welfare organisation exists without having a policy of lobbying government for compulsory licences to own dogs, horses, donkeys and animals normally associated with agriculture they are hypocrites.If they fail to join campaigns to regulate the way in which domestic rabbits, birds. reptiles etc are kept as pets-and even cats which are never allowed outside for instance-then they are hypocrites. They are part of the problem not a solution -they encourage pet ownership by their activities, their fundraising and profiles make people think that there is someone to pick up the pieces. If all these welfare organisations were honest and more confrontational about the cruelty caused by so called animal loving pet owners their donations would dry up. I have seen neglect of hens out of stupidity and ignorance, by allotment holders, which would cause a furore if a chicken farmer was involved. The EDP carries a lot of mini publicity articles for several animal welfare organisations. Anyone can open a rescue centre, they can be obsessives with no animal husbandry expertise at all and be as bad as the owners of the pets they rescue. The EDP tread carefully in case it is undone when those who run the organisations are discovered to be not as reputable as the EDP would like to think. Look at the photos for heavens sake-who in their right minds rescues pigs originally bred for bacon?

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • One of the reasons that there has been a drop in donations could be that people see the dogs charities bringing in stray dogs from Eastern Europe and think that if a charity can afford to do that there is no need to give money to animal charities, plus many people have seen how dangerous a dog can be and no longer want it.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most Commented

Latest from the EDP

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 5°C

Listen to the latest weather forecast

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the EDP
digital edition