Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund founder: “We are determined to survive”
The Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund, nestling in the countryside of Stelling Minnis, Kent, is a lifeline for animals of all kinds. Founder Margaret Todd MBE and her team provide sanctuary to animals who become homeless, or who have been injured or abused. In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, Todd discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has faced the charity with a battle to survive and the steps it is taking to navigate the crisis.
Some media reports have indicated that Covid-19 is capable of infecting companion animals, as well as more exotic species like tigers and lions, yet such cases to date are rare. The transmission of coronavirus from human to animal remains low, and up to now there is no evidence suggesting that pets can transmit the virus to their owners. The World Health Organization [WHO] has also stated that further evidence is needed in this area.
Nevertheless, pet owners and those working with animals are understandably worried about the health of their animal companions and how Covid-19 could affect them, but the wider disruption brought on by the pandemic is leaving leading figures such as Todd with other concerns too.
“From a welfare point of view, we have had to close two of our veterinary clinics for people on low income”, Todd explained.
“However, we have kept the main one at Rhodes Minnis open for emergencies and for the collection of repeat prescriptions. It is hugely difficult for us since we hate turning animals and owners away, even if it is to adhere to current guidelines”.
One proactive move Todd approves of is the decision of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to allow the organisation to neuter cats and dogs at its discretion, to avoid unwanted kittens and puppies being born during the crisis and either overburdening families financially or having to go into a sanctuary.
“We are pleased about the Royal College’s decision”, said Todd.
“It will save unwanted kittens and puppies being born and ending up in sanctuaries, also at a time when people are struggling financially.”
The Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund also has the capacity to vaccinate unprotected cats and dogs against disease, which Todd believes is crucial going forward.
“Vaccinations have played a big part in controlling infections over the years and it would be a shame to see them returning. In fact, we would like to see more education in future to encourage owners to have their pets checked regularly for fleas, ears, lumps and bumps, all of which can lead to more serious problems if left untreated for too long”.
Todd also took the time to remind individuals who are considering taking on a pet to think very carefully before choosing to do so.
“It is important that people do think hard on this because ideally, this will be their forever home. Things one must consider are whether they have sufficient funds in place if the animal needs surgery, and whether they have time for regular exercise and to engage playfully with their pet. Furthermore, some individuals living in rented accommodation may need to consult their landlord first to determine whether or not they are allowed to have a pet at home, at all.
“For anybody who is certain that they do wish to take on a companion, I would urge them to visit their local sanctuary instead of buying from a breeder. Most sanctuaries know their animals and what situations they will best fit into”.
Shifting focus onto how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the charity, Todd said that navigating the outbreak has turned into a real fight for survival.
“The charity is self-supporting without any government funding, so it has been difficult because we have been forced to close our charity shop and tearooms and all outside fundraising at the sanctuary has had to be cancelled for the year”, Todd explained.
“Our own income, which is from our boarding kennels and cattery has also collapsed due to the lack of people going on holiday. After working for many years to get the charity and kennels to a reasonable financial situation, it is heartbreaking to see our resources disappearing at this time.
“The funds will only last for so long, with a sanctuary full of animals that cannot be homed for the foreseeable future and the many animals that are permanent guests, some which have been with us for many years. Alas, our hopes of opening a new low income ‘state of the art’ clinic are also disappearing fast.”
Yet, despite the bleak outlook, Todd says that the organisation is determined to see out the crisis and continue its work.
A defiant Todd said: “We are determined to survive, that is for certain. We became a registered charity in 1981 and there is so much more we want to do. We will not give up.”