Charities find it difficult to raise essential funds at the best of times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on many.
Sammy Jones checked in with Animals in Need (AIN) to see how they are coping.
You never know what creature will be next through the doors of the aptly named Animals in Need centre.
In less than two weeks this spring, volunteers received 10 cade lambs (rescued from the food trade for a life at the sanctuary), two orphaned badgers (who will be reared ready for release), one guinea pig, one injured swan, 11 teeny ducklings, a few pussycats, five four-legged friends of the canine variety, and cluck-load of hens – 120 in all.
When you consider the charity has another 400 fur babies, feathered friends and other animals in situ (some seeking homes, some permanent residents) that’s one heck of a lot of work, and only continues thanks to the tireless dedication of nine staff members and a small army of volunteers.
All of the animals at the centre have their own, sad, sometimes heartbreaking stories; some have been abandoned by their mothers, others have been given up by owners whose own ailing health means they can no longer care for their pet pals, and some arrive having endured unspeakable cruelty.
Animals in Need turned 30 years old at the end of March, and it has a certain allure – just ask manager Annie Marriott.
“I got involved when my parents adopted a dog from the charity, then I signed up to volunteer. Before I knew it, I was running a block of kennels, fundraising, and doing wildlife rescues.
“It consumed my whole life, and it still does.”
And she isn’t lying; Annie isn’t just married to the job, she married Roy, who founded the charity!
During its three decades, AIN has cared for many thousands of animals: “I dread to think just how many there have been over the years, but last year alone we dealt with four and a half thousand!
“It’s crazy for a charity the size of ours, but we are always so very busy. Wildlife is rehabilitated and released, farm animals stay resident, and domestics are neutered, vaccinated and re-homed on a strict contract.”
Most of the animals are resident at Pinetree Farm in Little Irchester, but the farm animals and rescued ponies are held at a separate sanctuary.
And those seeking assistance aren’t always cute and cuddly: “The most unusual were definitely the Tokay’s, they were like something from Jurassic park and were very feisty little beings!”
When you have so many animals in your care, the biggest pressure is how to keep the funds coming in.
In the past, Annie has shown her dedication to the cause by abseiling and mountain climbing. She has wing walked, shaved her head and walked across broken glass to encourage people to donate to the cause.
“…and dived with sharks, straight off the back of the boat into the ocean with them, with no cage!” she says proudly.
Ordinarily, supermarket collections, car boot stalls, auctions, raffles and open days all help to swell the coffers, but the COVID-19 pandemic means that while the charity can receive new animals, the restrictions on animal movement mean that none can be re-homed. Consequently, there are even more mouths to feed with no light at the end of the tunnel.
“The pandemic is a major concern, because animals are still coming in and as everyone is on lockdown there is no rehoming, so we will eventually run out of room. Then where will the animals go?
“It is having a totally catastrophic effect on our funds.”
And with fundraising events (including the 30th anniversary ball) postponed, there is next to no money coming in, but the centre still needs to find a whopping £20k every month to stay afloat. It is a hugely worrying time for everyone involved.
Every day is manic, but some days prove more difficult than others, and the pressure sometimes gets a little too much.
“When I feel weak and like I just can’t continue, Roy gives me a reality check – he is 71 now and rescuing non-stop. He is a huge inspiration to me, so we keep calm and carry on,” Annie said.
“I feel that I was born to do animal rescue – that’s my reason for living, and I will rescue until the day I die,” Annie says.
“I’m so thankful to have an amazing team that deal with whatever we bring in to them, too.”
There are numerous stories of unlucky animals dealt a tough hand who have been lucky enough to find the charity. But one of her very first rescues left her mark on Annie’s heart.
“The most harrowing was a little emaciated staffie girl who had been almost starved to death and beaten beyond belief.
“We called her Berry and found her the most amazing home where she lived out her days. She stuck with me because even though she had been through such a horrific time, all she wanted was love. She still trusted humans and craved affection. Sadly, there have been thousands just like her since…”
How you can help? Why not set up a small standing order for the price of a weekly coffee to support the charity?
£5 can feed a hen, duck or hedgehog for a month.
£10 will provide fresh greens for rabbits, guinea pigs or feed a small dog or cat
£20 will feed a large dog or provide a course of flea/worm treatment
Monthly payment: £3, £5, £10, other amount
Bank details: Natwest Account No: 83791078
Sort Code: 60-15-55
Account Name: Animals in Need
Or make a one-off donation to via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org