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Norfolk animal sanctuary full as owners abandon pets

PUBLISHED: 09:21 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:18 20 February 2019

Alsion Howman-Payne finding a home for this grey lion head rabbit which was found roaming around a nearby village while we visited the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Alsion Howman-Payne finding a home for this grey lion head rabbit which was found roaming around a nearby village while we visited the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

Animal sanctuaries may be bursting at the seams right now, but it seems the message may have been getting through when it comes to giving pets as festive presents.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas,” the Dog Trust’s famous slogan, has become such a familiar refrain that the number of dogs given up for rehoming at its Snetterton centre has now decreased in the months following Christmas.

This pattern is repeated in other sanctuaries too. At RSPCA’s independent West Norfolk rehoming centre in King’s Lynn, new manager Penny Jackson Smith said animal owners are making more thoughtful choices about when to buy new pets.

One of several beautiful donkeys and horses that the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham cares for. Picture: Neil DidsburyOne of several beautiful donkeys and horses that the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham cares for. Picture: Neil Didsbury

She said: “I don’t think it’s as much of a problem now. We are now able to take animals in again but before we were absolutely jam-packed. They are nearly all down to changes in the circumstances of the owners like having to moved to a rental property.

“It used to be an issue but now I think the message has come across.”

Joanna Stratton, office manager at PACT animal sanctuary in Woodrising near Hingham, Norfolk. Picture: Neil DidsburyJoanna Stratton, office manager at PACT animal sanctuary in Woodrising near Hingham, Norfolk. Picture: Neil Didsbury

But at PACT animal sanctuary in Hingham, office manager Jo Stratton said: “We normally see an influx of Christmas present pets more in June or July, which is when they start being a bit naughty and people have tried to go on holiday.

“Before Christmas it’s the older animals. It tends to be eight or nine-month-old cats and dogs given in the summer, when they haven’t been trained and the kennel fees are high.

"People don't see them as one of the family any more, but disposable items, it's really sad". PACT's Jo Stratton says they look after so many rabbits because parents say children are bored of them. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“Our waiting lists are groaning, people are shocked. Recently we had to turn away five dogs, knowing they were going to be put to sleep. It is hard because it’s like you’re playing god.

“We’re supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, I think we’re a nation of people that just disregard and discard. I think animals are now seen as a commodity and not as a life.

Enjoying a sunny spot at the PACT animal sanctuary near Hingham. Picture: Neil DidsburyEnjoying a sunny spot at the PACT animal sanctuary near Hingham. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“When children don’t want their new pets anymore I say to the parents, what are you actually teaching your children? You’re teaching them that life doesn’t matter, and I say they need to be responsible for that.”

The RSPCA sees calls about dumped animals soar by 50pc in summertime. It advises that pets should not be given as presents unless it is known that the person receiving the pet is willing to take on the responsibility and can afford to do so.

Enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. One of the many cats keeping the donkeys company at PACT animal sanctuary in Woodrising near Hingham. Picture: Neil DidsburyEnjoying the warmth of the sunshine. One of the many cats keeping the donkeys company at PACT animal sanctuary in Woodrising near Hingham. Picture: Neil Didsbury

One of the many guinea pigs at the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham. Picture: Neil DidsburyOne of the many guinea pigs at the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Pascal the chameleon is one of a number of reptiles being cared for at the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising. Picture: Neil DidsburyPascal the chameleon is one of a number of reptiles being cared for at the PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham is full to capacity, caring for wild and domestic animals. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe PACT animal sanctuary at Woodrising near Hingham is full to capacity, caring for wild and domestic animals. Picture: Neil Didsbury

PACT animal sanctuary near Hingham is having to turn away animals as they are so full. After the animals are nursed to health they aim to find them caring new owners. Picture: Neil DidsburyPACT animal sanctuary near Hingham is having to turn away animals as they are so full. After the animals are nursed to health they aim to find them caring new owners. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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