It is said that we are a nation of dog lovers, but while most animals are treated with the love and compassion they deserve, unfortunately others find themselves in the hands of unscrupulous people such as illegal puppy farmers and those who are brutal and neglectful.
When this happens, many end up sponsoring a registered charity such as Hope Rescue. It is based in Lanharan in RCT, and currently has about 139 dogs under its care, some in the center and the rest in foster homes.
But with the rate of dog ownership on the rise since the closure, the center has been operating for the past 18 months which is a case of one dog coming in, one dog out of the house, apart from one or two kennels they keep free for any unexpected strays.
Read more: Welsh rescue center at crisis point as owners continue to hand their dogs over as ‘fake’ fugues
Taking a quarter of all strays in Wales and looking after six local authorities – Merthyr Tydfil, Torfin, Plainau Joint, Ronda Sinon Tuff, Bridgend and the western half of the Valley of Glamorgan – life in the center is incredibly crowded.
The business day officially starts at 8am but the staff is usually on site much earlier. The center is divided into three areas and each person takes care of approximately 10 dogs each day.
The first task is to check their dogs, making sure they are all okay. Once the initial checks are done, they then start taking out dogs who need to go to the toilet and clean up any clutter from the night.
Then the task of feeding all the dogs begins, which is a huge task as each dog has specific nutritional requirements. The center uses approximately 1,000 kg of dry food and 2,000 cans of wet food each month. Huge amounts of dog food are donated by the public or through food sponsors.
Besides breakfast time, the staff have to give any medication needed as many of the dogs in their care have complex medical needs.
“After feeding time is over, we start routine cleaning procedures so we clean the kennels and change all the bedding,” said Sarah Rosser, Head of Social Care and Adoption at the centre.
“We sleep here a lot, like humans, we are not good after a bad night’s sleep, so we offer different bedding options for dogs like loft beds or crates, whichever they prefer. Because of the different options we offer, that means a lot of laundry, we wash around 360 kg of laundry per day.
Next is bath time for some dogs. During our visit, puppies rescued during a raid last November on a puppy farm in Carmarthenshire were bathed. These attractives are almost ready to find their forever homes.
Throughout the day dogs get plenty of exercise. They are taken out of their homes to stretch their legs through a training program in one of the enclosed pastures on site and there are regular trails in the nearby woods. Sarah said employees who have fitness tracking watches regularly log more than 10,000 steps per day with their dogs exercise.
And of course, there are plenty of hugs for dogs who have often starved of affection during their lives.
“We have received funding from Aviva to create outdoor pastures and sensory gardens for dogs to enjoy, but most dogs enjoy lawn rooms on the pasture where they can sit and cuddle with a volunteer for a short time,” Sarah said.
In addition to a lot of attention from the staff, the dogs get constant stimulation and entertainment through regular dog games and fun-filled Kong games.
Read more: The dogs have been rescued from a raided Welsh puppy farm and are now ready for adoption
In addition to taking care of the dogs’ daily needs, the Hope Rescue team – which receives more than 7,000 applications annually from those who want to adopt a pet – has a heap of responsible people to deal with every day.
“People think we are too tough on people who want to save a dog from us, but many potential adopters want an immediate family dog and at the moment they are not the dogs that we have, we have some but most of them need that extra amount of love and time,” Sarah said.
Every day is different, some days they have a stray dog to take, adoption happens, or they have vet visits. Hope Rescue works closely with Maes Glas veterinarians who go to the center once a week for vaccinations, checkups, and any follow-up or other operations that take place in their clinic.
“Most of the dogs in Hope Rescue’s care are there because of behavioral issues, a change in circumstances, or a medical reason that the owners cannot or won’t push,” Sarah said.
As it stands, Hope Rescue vet bills are estimated to be £200,000 this year and cost anywhere from £15,000 to £20,000 a month. Most dogs that come in are not straight forward and are not always eligible for immediate adoption. So many have behavioral issues that they need time to work on or need to neutralize before moving into a permanent home, which all costs money and takes time.
Sarah has worked in animal rescues for more than 20 years, but she admitted that this is the first time she has seen so many dogs with complex behavioral problems that she says are a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think this has to do with some families buying a dog that doesn’t necessarily fit in with their lifestyle or their family dynamics,” she admitted.
One of the most annoying moments during our visit was the PTS (sleep mode) call the center received. A vet asked if the center could receive the dog or else he would have to sleep. It’s something that happens daily because they have up to 90 calls of the same nature every month and unfortunately they can’t help every dog.
“You want to help every dog,” Sarah said, “but it’s not physically possible, but once they’re in with us, we give them the best chance we can, and we’ll never give up on them.”
At the end of a busy day, it’s time for the staff to deliver food and medicine again. The walk-and-clean cycle before handing over to the on-site night staff continues 24/7.
According to the Rescue Center, they usually see a spike in stray numbers coming in the lead-up to Christmas as people make way for a new puppy.
For this reason, and due to the large amounts of electrolytes they saw during lockdown, they always keep one or two beds free for unexpected guests.
Kennel Supervisor Amy Thompson said, “Although we’re always working to our capacity, we never know what’s coming through the door. It keeps us on our toes.”
To end the day, the evening staff completes all final checks and bathroom breaks and then puts all the dogs in their beds around 10pm where it’s time to say goodnight before it all starts again at 8am.
The days may be hectic at least at Hope Rescue but one thing is for sure, these dogs are finally getting the love and care they deserve before they find their forever homes.
You can learn more about Hope Rescue’s work here.
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