Just outside the city of Lancaster is a very special charity which since 1978 has taken in abandoned and unwanted animals from across the country.
Animal Care, on Blea Tarn Road, has an enviable position on top of a steep hill with a beautiful panoramic view of Lancaster, Morecambe and Morecambe Bay.
The charity has built a tearoom and small charity shop near the entrance to the animal centre which brings in much needed funds to help all the animals.
A short drive up a steep road takes you up to Animal Care itself, and before you turn the corner to enter the car park, you can hear the dogs barking in the kennels.
I was greeted by a cheery Abi Sadler, manager at the charity, who has worked at the centre ever since she volunteered there after leaving college with an Animal Care diploma.
A steady flow of visitors trickle into the reception area, some wanting to enquire about looking at a particular dog or cat with a view to adoption, others to donate much needed bedding or food.
Abi said: “Every day we get donations of blankets, towels and so on and the basket is emptied six times a day.
“We get hundreds of bags of food a day as well.
“Unfortunately, every week we get animals abandoned here as well.
“Just recently, a little Jack Russell was thrown out of a car window into the car park here and injured his leg. He will be ready for rehoming soon.
“We’ve had a cat box with a cat in left on the floor, kittens in binbags left by the bins.
“We’ve had dogs tied to a gate and some even tie their dogs to the nearby motorway bridge.
“We have rabbits left in hutches as well. In some ways at least people are coming and dumping them on my doorstep rather than in the middle of a field.”
Recently a dog called Milo was handed over to Animal Care. He had a broken leg and his owner wanted him put to sleep. But Abi agreed to take him on and treat him.
She said: “Animal Care has a very strict no kill policy and a pet will stay with us until a new home can be found for them.
“His broken leg needed fixing so we are trying to raise £1500 on justgiving. I’d rather help the dog than have him put to sleep.
“Last month we had a staffie called Max who came to us with cancer and an appeal raised over £1k in just a day.
“Previously we had a cat that came into us with burns after children had put the animal in an oven.
“She was treated for her burns and we rehomed her.”
The centre goes through 15kg of food per day and that is just for the dogs. It relies heavily on donations of food and legacies in wills which are always gratefully received.
Vets fees are the main expense, with a bill of between £4-£6k every month for treatment for the animals.
As well as the tearoom and charity shop on the site, there is also an Animal Care stall at the nearby GB Antiques Centre and a charity shop on Market Street in Lancaster, which all bring in much needed funds.
At the centre as well as Abi there are eight animal staff and a dog behaviourist called Kathyrn Jones.
Abi said: “We have hundreds of volunteers and every week people register to be a volunteer.
“Everyone is different, there are retired people who come once a week and also students from the uni who help at weekends.
“Half walk the dogs and half stay and cuddle the cats.
“We also have a pool of fosterers as well for dogs. People will foster kittens before they are rehomed or elderly dogs over 15 which are difficult to find homes for.
“Puppies go to foster homes they need to learn socialisation, because you can’t hand rear a puppy at the centre.
“Every day the dogs get walked three or four times a day. I’m lucky to have a fantastic team of staff who have a real passion for animals. No-one wants to leave! People go above and beyond their duty a lot of the time.”
The centre currently has 34 dogs, 26 cats, 20 rabbits, two gerbils, two rats, 12 guinea pigs and one hamster ready for rehoming.
It costs £90 to adopt a dog and £60 to adopt a cat which is for vaccinations, worming, fleaing, microchipping and a voucher for neutering if it hasn’t already been done. There is also four weeks free pet insurance.
The centre also has a groom room for members of the public to come and get their dog groomed.
Abi said: “In the last 12 months, we have had 60 adoptions, always more cats than other animals.
“We have a special unit for dogs who have been here long term, with sofas and a television.
“We applied for a grant a few years ago to have a unit all done up for dogs like Stella, a staffie, who’ll be with us for a while.
“I want them to have as nice a life as possible. We make it like a home, it’s nice and quiet.
“With cats, its older cats that struggle to find a home.
“With dogs its their aggression. Stella, one of our long term guests, needs to be muzzled all the time but with people she is soft as muck.”
Over recent years Abi has seen an increase in animals having to be handed over when people move house.
She said: “I’ve seen a huge increase in people with animals moving house into rented accommodation and having to give up their animals.
“It’s a shame people have to give up their pets. Hardly any landlord allow pets now.
“There has also been a big increase in elderly people having to go into homes and not being allowed to take their cat or dog with them. It is devastating for them.”
Sadly with the growth of social media, more pets are being offered free online.
Abi said: “Social media presents huge problems with people offering pets free to a good home.
“Some people are just breeding to make a buck.
“We work with the RSPCA and have done a few house clearances. We have been working with a woman who had 36 cats, which we are taking in in groups.
“There was also one lady who had 100 guinea pigs, I took 30 home with me! They were just breeding.
“Some people can’t afford to get pets neutered. A lot of people think that brother and sister cats won’t breed but they do and this can produce kittens with health problems.”
Animal Care stops all rehoming of animals over the Christmas period to discourage people from getting an animal for a Christmas present.
Abi said: “We tend to see a slight increase in puppy’s being handed over to us the first few weeks in January which sadly have been given as Christmas presents.
“To be honest this time of year is always worse for some reason the run up to Christmas we always have a high amount of adult dogs being handed over.
“However, I feel I’m making a difference. These dogs are coming in in a terrible state and there is nothing better than seeing them go to a good home.”
If you would like to help towards the cost of Milo the dog’s surgery and aftercare, visit
Animal Care will be taking on new volunteers in January.
If you are interested in volunteering, want to adopt a pet, or donate food or bedding, call Animal Care on 01524 65495, visit the website at www.animalcare-lancaster.co.uk or email [email protected]
Animal Care has been a registered charity helping animals since 1978.
They take unwanted and abandoned animals in from all over the North West and look after them until they can find them loving new homes.
They save predominantly dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents and birds.
They rehome over 1000 animals every year.
Animal Care are the only rescue in this area which can help dogs, cats and small animals so they are always very busy and always very full.
Animal Care also rehome ex-battery hens, and have two resident goats which they saved from slaughter.
In addition to this they have a wildlife rehabilitation centre, where they take in injured wildlife, which they care for and release after recovery.
Animal Care works very hard every day to help as many animals as they can.
Each day they are asked to help pets from homes where the owners can no longer care for them for many different reasons.
They also help dog pounds across the North West with dogs on death row.
They help the RSPCA with cruelty cases, puppy farms and abandoned animals.
They also support the work of the Romanian Street Dog Rescue.
Last year Animal Care started its own education programme with staff member Michael, who travels to schools and groups all over the North West to help educate children about responsible pet ownership.
It has been a huge success and he has already been to over 150 schools.
Buster’s story is a sad one that is all too common.
Buster the Jack Russell was sold over Facebook to the wrong people, said Animal Care.
Unfortunately he was then thrown out of a car window and dumped in the car park at the animal centre.
He suffered an injury to his back leg as a result of being thrown from the window.
Animal Care made contact with his owner and Buster has now been signed over to the charity.
Abi Sadler, manager, said: “We will never really know what happened to Buster but the most important thing is he is now safe and happy. Buster will be looking for a new home soon.”
If you can offer Buster a new home call Animal Care on 01524 65495.
l This year Animal Care have decided to offer Stella’s services to anyone that needs a festive snuggle. This time of year is always sad for dogs that need a family of their own and also for humans who are feeling a bit down.
To help everyone Stella has offered a cuddle to anyone who needs it.
She is always here to help the staff when they have had a bad day or feel a bit fed up.
Stella has a sofa in her room and a TV so will be happy to cuddle up on the sofa and watch a film.
If you fancy a Stella Snuggle please call and book your snuggle slot.
You can even be served with a brew or lunch while snuggling.
Place your order with a staff member and they will deliver it to you from the tearoom.
Call Animal Care on 01524 65495.