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As well as founding the Ealing Animal Charities Fair, Marion Garnett has also, since 2011, written a weekly Animal Rescue column which is published in the West London local paper, the Gazette. Columns published since January 2019 are now available online here.


If you would like to see any of the columns published before 2019, please contact Marion directly (see Contacts page).

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Column 6th April 2020


A good time to tell if people are spending their days working from home is midnight. Normally, when I look out of the window at that time, few lights are on and I think why has everyone gone to bed so early. Now, as people don’t have to get up for early trains, it’s like Blackpool illuminations out there.


But working from home brings challenges. In order to help those working at home who have a dog, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have compiled top tips to help people stay productive while keeping their dog occupied (and out of video conferencing calls). These include setting up your working area, away from your dog (not least because Battersea are mindful that working from home is not going to last for ever and your dog needs to be able to cope without you being there when you return to work), keeping the dog busy, taking regular breaks in which to give your dog some quality time and making sure your dog has a safe space to go if they’re not feeling social. Battersea also have videos showing how we can use recycled materials to make toys to keep our pets busy.


To help with any questions we have about pet care and coronavirus, Battersea has collaborated with other animal charities and organisations to produce two infographics to advise us. The first one includes advice on how to look after our pet while looking after ourselves and how to care for pets while social distancing. The second one contains advice relating to walking someone else’s dog. For example, extra precautions to take if walking the dog of someone in the category of being “shielded” or extremely vulnerable. To see these infographics, go to cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus. We need to be aware this advice may change. To help provide support to pet owners, Battersea have also set up a cat and dog behaviour advice line on 020  3887 8347 (open Monday- Friday 8am-5pm).


During this crisis, Battersea rehoming centres are closed to the public (although they are still taking in emergency cases). And, they are, of course, still looking after animals currently in their care. This includes Memphis who is in foster care with a member of staff. This Chow-Chow arrived at Battersea after being found as a stray. He can be quite aloof and is not overly comfortable with being handled. Memphis is looking for an owner experienced with Chows. If this could be you, see details at battersea.org.uk.


Column 13th April 2020


Last week, we looked at ways of keeping pets, particularly dogs, occupied during the lockdown. This week, we’re looking at ways, which involve animals, of keeping people, including children, occupied. So, if you’re tearing your hair out, read on.


The National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) have educational resources which can be adapted for use at home. These include word search puzzles and poster design ideas. They are also organising an online pet photo competition. Categories include Caught in the Act and Family Portrait.  See details at nawt.org.uk.  Entries cost £1 each.


If you’re interested in writing, Nowzad are organising a short story competition. Nowzad is a charity which helps animals in war zones. They also have an animal shelter in Afghanistan. It’s appropriate for them to organise a writing competition as their founder, ex-marine commando Pen Farthing, is a best-selling author. The theme is anything Nowzad. For details of their work and the competition see nowzad.com. Entries must be 500 words or less and should be accompanied by a minimum donation of £10 per entry. The closing date is 20 April 2020.


Starting last week, the animal rescue centre, Mayhew, is hosting a weekly online quiz. You can play either on your phone or on a computer. The quiz goes live at 12pm every Thursday and you will have until 1pm to play. As you play, your score will appear on the live leaderboard. At the end of the hour, the overall winner will receive a £10 Amazon gift voucher. Places are limited, so you need to secure your place in advance. It costs £2 to enter. For details see themayhew.org.


And then, specifically for children, there is the fabulous Animal Action magazine produced by the RSPCA which has masses of competitions, puzzles and information about animals. For details, go to rspca.org.uk, then click on Get Involved followed by the Young People tab.


Don’t forget that this RSPCA website is also one of the places where you can get advice on pet care during the Covid-19 crisis.


Waiting for the crisis to be over is Tilly, a lovely timid girl whose world was turned upside down after her owner could no longer care for her and she came into the care of the NAWT.  Many of us probably feel our world is upside down, too, at the moment, but when it’s the right way up and the crisis is over, this gorgeous girl will be available for homing from NAWT, Tylers Way, Watford by Pass.



Column 20th April 2020


Two months ago, a 12 year old boy left his puppy outside an animal shelter in Mexico. With the puppy, the boy left a note saying that he and his Mum had decided to leave the dog at the shelter to hide it from his Dad who was thinking of selling it. The note said his father mistreated and kicked the puppy.


For anyone who has worked in a capacity in which they are privy to people’s secrets, it will come as no surprise that during this coronavirus lockdown, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day.


Although we don’t know what the situation was in the Mexican case, research shows there is a strong link between animal abuse and domestic abuse with perpetrators often threatening or harming a pet in order to intimidate and control their partner. Many definitions of domestic abuse now include abuse of pets.


The government acknowledges that the coronavirus lockdown is likely to be particularly difficult for victims of domestic abuse and highlights that the household isolation instruction does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.


But many victims won’t leave their home unless they can take their pet with them. And, often, they can’t be taken with the victim into a refuge. This is where charities like Dogs Trust come in. The Freedom Project, organised by Dogs Trust, is a free fostering service for dogs who belong to people fleeing from domestic abuse. Under the scheme, dogs can be fostered for up to 6 months. It is a confidential service which is still running during the lockdown. Details of the Freedom Project can be found at moretodogstrust.org.uk.  You can contact them at freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk or call 0800  298 9199.


Cats Protection run a similar service, called Paws Protect, which helps cats of families experiencing domestic abuse. For details call 0345  260 1280 or see pawsprotect@cats.org.uk.


Now back to Dogs Trust where Herbie, the Lurcher, is waiting, at their Harefield centre, for a home. Herbie derives confidence from being with other dogs and, in his new home, he must live with another dog. Dogs Trust are currently not rehoming animals but, if you are interested in homing Herbie, when rehoming restarts, his details are at dogstrust.org.uk.


Meanwhile, don’t forget, if you want information on pet care and coronavirus, have a look, for example, at rspca.org.uk and bluecross.org.uk.



Column 27th April 2020


This week, if you’re tired of staying in, let’s go on a virtual visit to the RSPCA Cat Adoption Centre at Southall. If you haven’t been before, it can be difficult to find, not least because it’s sometimes listed as being on Norwood Road whereas it always seems to me to be on Burket Close. But it’s right next to the Grand Union Canal and you can cycle to the centre along the towpath – you just have to remember (unlike me) to come up at the right bridge.


Normally the centre is buzzing with the Cat Adoption Centre on one side and a busy RSPCA Animal Clinic on the other. But, for now, it’s quiet and closed, except to staff and the cats they’re looking after.


Meeting us there (virtually, of course) is the Centre Manager, Bev Leavy. Bev should have been on holiday but, instead, she is leading two teams of dedicated staff as they look after the cats and kittens waiting there for rehoming to restart.  As well as beautiful adult cats, they also have lots of kittens - all with their own reason for needing RSPCA help so early in life. Take, for example, Elsa’s brood. Their Mum, Elsa, came into the care of the RSPCA after falling from a balcony while heavily pregnant. She fractured all her toes and bruised her pelvis. And, then had to give birth. Thankfully Putney Animal Hospital was there to help her.  At present, Elsa is on cage rest but she and her gorgeous kittens will be looking for new homes when the Centre reopens.


Having so many kittens at the centre during lockdown presents challenges for staff. Between two and eight weeks of age is a crucial time in the development of a kitten with regard to how well socialised they are likely to be as adults. The more new experiences kittens have in their early life, the more comfortable they are likely to be with new experiences when they are older. It is, however, important these experiences happen in a place where the kitten feels safe and happy – they must be positive experiences.


With lockdown, such opportunities are limited, for example, meeting a different range of people.  Fortunately, the RSPCA has advice on how to address this issue by, for example, playing recordings of children’s/adults’ voices. You can see this advice at rspca.org.uk where you can also find advice on other aspects relating to care of your pet during the coronavirus outbreak.



April 2020

Weekly column Subject Index