My dear readers,
This time of year, I find, is perfect for believing in hope. Christmas should be all about celebrating but, unfortunately, too many suffer in silence. But that doesn't have to be the normal way. Having been in rabbit PR as long as I have, I am so proud to share this beautiful content written by Katharine Creagh from the Assisi Animal Sanctuary.
They do amazing work, and they write just as well. Please do yourself a favour and read about their incredible work over the Christmas period.
Its Christmas day.
You have no idea where your family is, or indeed, where you are. Everything around you looks, and smells, strange. Large strangers come and look at you periodically, occasionally sweeping the floor around you or leaving food.
This nightmarish scenario is the daily reality for animals in shelters across the UK and Ireland, and unfortunately,
Christmas day is just another day in a kennel for abandoned rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, and all manner of other small furry creatures.
Many of these animals have come from warm, loving homes, but due to illness, death, or a change in living circumstances, their families have had to make heart-breaking decisions to give them up. As costs continue to rise, many rescues are struggling to meet demand as more and more families find themselves unable to provide for their pet.
At present, most animal shelters are completely full, and the burden of caring for so many animals weighs greatly on staff and volunteers. Being spread so thin, many of us who work at rescue centres leave work with a heavy heart, wishing we could have spent more time with the animals in our care to give them the attention and love they so dearly deserve. Unsurprisingly, the physical and emotional burden of working with relinquished animals can lead to high levels of stress and burn-out within this sector during the holidays.
The worst, however, is yet to come.
Every year, thousands of animals are gifted to friends, family and children for Christmas. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, everyone is off work, you have lots of love and attention to give and the kids are delighted.
But when the new year rolls in, people are back to work and school has started back, the day-to-day reality of cleaning an enclosure and meeting an animal’s needs becomes too much to cope with, leading to a large proportion of these “Christmas gifts” being abandoned post-holiday.
This rings true for cats and dogs too, but often the small furries are not given up entirely, but banished to the bottom of the garden, easily forgotten and, literally, left out in the cold. With a lack of education in our society about proper housing of smaller pets, many small animals (such as rabbits , guinea pigs and other rodents) means these often social-living animals are bought in sold as single animals and kept in “hutches” that are far too small for their needs.
Yes, I know. So far I have painted a picture of doom and gloom, not exactly the fun and fluffy festive feature you probably prefer to read at this time of year.
It’s not all bad news though.
Despite the struggles and heartbreak those of us in the animal welfare world witness, I find myself incredibly privileged to occasionally get a glimpse of the best side of humanity, particularly during this season of giving. Last week, for example, we received an Amazon package full of beautiful Christmas toys for our animals that one kind supporter had ordered for us.
We have almost daily donations of food, treats, and cosy blankets for the animals dropped up to our sanctuary by members of the public. One particularly astute donator sent a cash gift, strictly earmarked for treating our hard-working staff and volunteers (which went towards some well-deserved beverages at our Christmas party!). Most heart-warming perhaps, is the number of people who have offered to become…
These wonderful individuals and open their homes to temporarily shelter an animal over the Christmas period. Taking part in this foster program is a wonderful way for individuals and families who can’t commit to the lifespan of an animal to take one in and give them some extra love and care while they have fewer work commitments and schools are closed.
This also provides much needed respite for the animal, who may not be coping very well in a shelter environment, allowing them to feel “normal” even if just for a few weeks. This short break from the stress of shelter life can improve their resilience when they eventually come back into our care to look for their forever home.
Additionally, it helps relieve some of the pressure on our over-stretched teams of animal welfare workers, most of whom will continue to work through the Christmas period, taking time away from their families on Christmas day to provide care and attention to the animals that remain on site.
Many rescues such as ourselves rely heavily on the kindness of animal lovers nationwide to keep our doors open and continue to care for animals in need. If you find yourself full of Christmas spirit and would like to help our rescue efforts, you can visit https://www.assisi-ni.org/donation/.
You could also be a Secret Santa to our animals by purchasing a gift for them via our Amazon Wish List: https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/333H7RKL1U51X?&sort=default, or if resources are tight this year, consider using Amazon Smile to do your shopping, meaning Assisi receive a small donation for every purchase you make, at no extra cost to you! https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/chpf/homepage?orig=Lw==
And of course, if you live in Northern Ireland and you have time and space to house an animal temporarily you can register your interest here: tinyurl.com/AssisiAngels. We’d desperately love to hear from you.
Wishing you and yours a happy, warm, and comfortable festive season,
Assisi Animal Welfare Manager
So there you have it. I hope you were as moved as I was reading it; I shall be off now to count my blessings but before I go I'd like to say that Richard McMullan, our Chair, is also Chair of Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Northern Ireland. He asked Katharine to share her thoughts about running a sanctuary at Xmas. There are hundreds of rescue charities and we’re sure they’d love your help this Xmas, whether it’s a gift for the animals or a donation or even using Amazon Smile.
Have a wonderful holiday period you lucky, happy, well fed and devishly handsome critters.
Mr Binkley Esq.