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‘Society sees pets as throwaway items’ - animal sanctuaries slam pet owners following festive influx

PUBLISHED: 10:02 31 December 2018

Animal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep was found collapsed and abandoned near Foulsham. Picture: Hallswood Animal Sanctuary

Animal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep was found collapsed and abandoned near Foulsham. Picture: Hallswood Animal Sanctuary

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Animal sanctuaries across the region have blasted thoughtless pet owners after an influx of new arrivals over the festive period.

Animal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep was found collapsed and abandoned near Foulsham. Picture: Hallswood Animal SanctuaryAnimal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep was found collapsed and abandoned near Foulsham. Picture: Hallswood Animal Sanctuary

Sanctuaries and RSPCA centres in Norfolk and Waveney have taken in hundreds of unwanted pets throughout December, many of whom have been abandoned or have suffered at the hands of their former owners.

In December last year the RSPCA’s hotline was flooded with 55,821 calls from the public. Earlier this month, the charity launched an appeal to cover its costs over winter, during which it expects to take more than 10,000 animals into care.

Sanctuaries in Norfolk and Waveney have meanwhile been inundated with new arrivals, and Hallswood Animal Sanctuary in Stratton Strawless is no different.

“We always get animals coming in at this time of year because, sadly, people tend to acquire a new pet at Christmas,” said owner Lyz Hall.

A pair of stray foals taken in by Hillside Animal Sanctuary earlier this year. Picture: Hillside Animal SanctuaryA pair of stray foals taken in by Hillside Animal Sanctuary earlier this year. Picture: Hillside Animal Sanctuary

“We’ve seen a lot of older animals requiring a space. Existing pets don’t always cope well with a companion and, when that happens, it’s the fluffy new puppies that get to stay at home.

“Society these days seems to see pets as throwaway items - possessions rather than animals. They think there’s a queue of people willing to take them, but there simply aren’t enough rescue spaces or homes.”

Wendy Valentine, founder of Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Frettenham, agrees that the root cause of animal abandonment in December is almost always the same.

“In terms of the number we’ve had coming in, it’s probably been much the same as the rest of the year,” said Mrs Valentine. “The thing with Christmas time is that it’s always for a particular reason.

Animal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep, found abandoned in Foulsham, is now on the road to recovery. Picture: Hallswood Animal SanctuaryAnimal sanctuaries in Norfolk have seen an influx of new arrivals over the festive period. Rudolf the sheep, found abandoned in Foulsham, is now on the road to recovery. Picture: Hallswood Animal Sanctuary

“With the older dogs, especially, we often discover their families have new puppies and that’s why they’ve been pushed out.”

PACT Animal Sanctuary, in Woodrising, cares for a variety of animals and birds, with a stray calf and several buzzards among the recent incomings.

Co-founder Christine Rockingham says the key for prospective new owners is to think long and hard about whether they are ready to take on a new animal.

“Our busiest period is usually just before Christmas,” said Mrs Rockingham. “If you know you can’t manage having a new pet, you need to think again - talk to sanctuaries and get advice before making a decision.

“What’s the point in having a pet for years, only to dump them?”

Road to recovery

Among the festive incomings at Hallswood Animal Sanctuary was Rudolf, a sheep found collapsed at the side of a road near Foulsham.

The lamb - who is not even a year old - was severely emaciated, weighing just 15kg when he should weigh as much as 50kg at this stage of his development.

Being treated so poorly left Rudolf with a huge internal parasite problem, preventing him from ingesting food properly, while he has also been affected by chronic diarrhoea and an infestation of lice which causes his fleece to fall out.

“There were no other farm animals anywhere near where he was found and, since he was discovered without a tag, we think he was probably kept as a domestic pet,” said Mrs Hall.

“He hasn’t been castrated either and he has a full tail, which is very rare for a farm sheep.”

Nevertheless, Rudolf has generated quite a fanbase as his recovery is documented on the Hallswood Facebook page.

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