Monday, 28 April 2014

Week 18 - Animal Shelter Visit

Support an animal shelter!

This week I will be visiting Bleakholt animal shelter (see April entry of project 12 for more info) for the shelter's Spring open day and fundraiser. I was planning to donate some knitted blankets (if made in time, but sadly these were not) and cat toys for the shelters resident cats. The open day itself was held on April 27th, approximately 12 pm til 4 pm.

After getting lost on the drive, and travelling through Darwen, which is a very beautiful area, myself and my partner arrived at Bleakholt. We spent some time with the horse and ponies, stroked a barn owl and a rabbit, visited the goats, the dogs and went to see the OAP cats as you can go into their section to handle them. Sadly, a few of the OAP residents who were around last summer and at their winter open day [November] don't appear to have survived the winter, looking at their charts.  I don't have any photographs of the animals as it was too crowded to take any decent ones.   I advise anybody in the area who are looking for a pet or companion animal to get in touch with Bleakholt. They have many wonderful animals who would make a great edition to any family or single.

Some of the dogs I saw today can be seen on this page from the Bleakholt website Spike (patterdale) was especially sweet. With the cats, seen here: , Jasmine, Breeze (who is the double of my old [r.i.p] cat Sox, Sascha (who was very affectionate once you gave her a minute) and another cat, Axtlor(? not pictured) who is quite possibly the quietest cat in the world [nobody has ever heard him miaow] stick in my mind.

Monday, 21 April 2014

week 17 - what to do next?

Those of you who read last week's post will know that I held a vote on the project52 facebook page to decide who I would be joining as a sponsor/member and the winner was

The Donkey Sanctuary! As The Donkey Sanctuary has several locations in the UK, I opted for a male mule called Toby, who lives at the Manchester branch, so that I may visit him at a later date to see first hand the work they do there.

As for this week's action, I am truly lost! I have heard many horror stories in recent weeks about several animal shelters, which is very disheartening as helping homeless animals was the point of this month's theme.

If any of you, the readers have a shelter in mind you would like to see mentioned before the month is up, then get in touch! you can do this by using the contact form or by emailing me at

Hopefully I will have a more positive update to this week soon!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Spotlight on.... The Society for Abandoned Animals

As part of the preparation for 'Help the Homeless Animals' month, I interviewed Rachel, who is one of the volunteers and a trustee at SAA (The Society for Abandoned Animals), which is located at Mosley Acre Farm, Stretford, Manchester, UK. In addition to the interview which can be found below, myself and my partner also visited the shelter on March 1st, 2014 with a small donation of toys and treats for some of the animals.

The SAA was started by Peggy Henderson, who lived in the Manchester area, back in the 1960's. Back then, there was a housing shortage as many pre-existing houses were no longer fit for use, leaving the occupants needing accommodation until a new house could be built or found. For many of these individuals, it meant that their beloved pets had to be re-homed or fostered as they could not be taken into the temporary accommodation, and so, Peggy stepped into the breach, either by re-homing or fostering many of these animals as possible. As the years went on, new, permanent shelter premises were looked for, which at one time included a move all the way to Buxton, Derbyshire! This location was too far away for the team at the SAA and for the people and pets of Manchester of whom Peggy wanted to help, so a final property search was undertaken, which lead to the permanent location of Mosley Acre Farm in 1994. The shelter was named as 'The Peggy Henderson Animal Sanctuary' although The Society for Abandoned Animals is the official charity name for the shelter.

This blog, offers a little more information on the history of the SAA, 

Peggy herself is sadly no longer with us, having passed away in 2004(?) but her legacy still lives on at the SAA, which is affectionately known as 'Peggy's Place' by many of the locals.

During my visit to the SAA, I was shown isolation units for cats, dogs and rabbits (not inside for health and safety reasons), Peggy's memorial garden where tags for animals can be left in memorandum, the green house where some of the plants sold at SAA fundraisers are grown and kept; a private stable block for horses owned by Unite To Care, which is another animal rescue organisation, they provide the rehabilitation for Walter and a small number of horses kept at Mosley Acre Farm.

The small white 'dimple' on Walter's rear is not a dimple, but in fact the remains of where a large label bearing his subject number from the testing facility was. It is not visible on these images, but there are also patches on Walter where he was shaved and the fur is starting to grow back. He is very wary of humans still but will respond to his name and was willing to approach the fence of his paddock when my guide, Rachel called his name.

I spent some time in the rabbit indoor pens, which is Rachel's specialist area, meeting some of the current residents. Rachel told me of how some of the rabbits under her care came to be there due to people buying them for their children and the novelty wearing off, that a few had been rescued from a meat factory, of which those few needed extra time before they could be re-homed to learn how to be a rabbit; that they had never seen greens or knew they were safe to eat. One particular rabbit, a harlequin coloured female had ended up losing her eye, leaving her partially blind due to problems from before arriving at the SAA and is now a longer term resident.

The pens that the rabbits were kept in were larger than any I have ever seen at a shelter or private residence, leaving the rabbits with the room to move and eat, sleep and play in comfort.  The shelter makes use of Carpet books by using the samples to provide different textures and warmth for the rabbits to sit/lie on and are often looking for donations of these and newspapers especially for use in the rabbit toilet areas. My partner spent time with one occupant, Nick, and then with a pair, called Peaches and Lily, of whom Rachel is hoping to re-home as a pair, but lily is sometimes over-looked due to being white with red (albino) eyes, which can be off putting to some. I had donated a wood and rope toy for the rabbits, so this went in for Peaches and Lily to share. 

SAA also provides at cost, private boarding for rabbits so that their owners do not need to rely on neighbours or inexperienced relatives for their pet rabbit care during holidays etc.

After this, we went into the cat house, where all the cats who are up for re-homing are kept. Again, the cat pens were quite spacious with different levels to them and room for scratching posts and other toys to play with. Rachel and one of the other shelter volunteers had been spending time with two cats in particular prior to the afternoon visit, which were two fluffy black and white females, called Daphne and Velma. They were originally part of a group, all named after Scooby Doo characters by their previous owner, who sadly had not fully socialized them, leaving them shy and nervous of strangers and carers alike. Of the two, Velma is much fluffier than her sister and was starting to trust and play with Rachel, whereas Daphne is more comfortable with playing at a distance, with a laser pointer pen light being her favourite game. These two cats were very attractive, but would need an experienced owner to give them time and patience to grow into wonderful pets.

I then went into the pen of Fudge, a large, black and very affectionate tom, who was purring very loudly in no time at all. Fudge is about 10 years old but in good health with bright eyes and would make a wonderful house cat for somebody who would like a lap cat. Fudge had previously come from a very good home, but his owner had to give up him and his sister, Coco, as they were emigrating and sadly could not take the cats with them. Coco is slimmer and smaller than fudge, still affectionate, but is currently recovering from an allergy that made some of her fur fall out, and so she is in a separate pen for the time being. I also got to meet another female, a tortoiseshell and white, called Sienna. Sienna came in as a stray but was very clean, in good health and highly affectionate cat, she was clearly somebody's pet, but as she had no microchip and nobody had come forward, she is now up for re-homing. Sienna, like fudge, would make a great house cat and lap cat. During my time in her pen she was quite happy to jump onto my partner's lap while we were trying to take photos of her and even let me hold her for short while.

After this, we went to the 'Animal Lounge' which was paid for by 'Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, Dharampur (UK)' in August, 2013. The animal lounge is a large room with a small kitchinette attached, set up like a typical living room, with sofas, a coffee table, bookshelf and display unit, plus a large cage. The cage is used for cage training with the dog residents so that if a new owner needs to use it (when appropriate) they may do so.

At present, the SAA has kennel facilities for three dogs as they believe that a smaller number is easier to manage for care, rehabilitation and the dogs emotional welbeing, as a smaller number means less upset animals getting anxious from being in the kennels, then barking and upsetting other dog residents, which I have seen happen at other shelters in the past. This also leaves the dog carers free for more one on one time with the dogs. Whilst visiting, I also got to meet Chris, who does most of the training and handling and home check visits for the canine residents. At the time of my visit, there were only two dogs under the care of the SAA. Dexter, a large male and handsome staffordshire terrier, who took great delight in climbing onto one of the sofas to sit between Chris and Rachel during my visit. As a 'staffie' owner myself, I know that the reputation of the dogs is greatly undeserved, as it is often bad ownership/care that can lead to a 'bad' dog. Dexter himself has been a resident at the SAA since April 2013, and makes use of the animal lounge so that a home set up does not become unfamiliar to him. I took with me a purple tennis ball for Dexter, who apparently can fit three of them in his mouth! The tennis ball, in typical staffie fashion was destroyed, but enjoyed, by Dexter in under five minutes.

Rachel explained that some of the volunteers at the shelter make use of the animal lounge so that if they are unable to get down to clean out pens/animal areas or are not strong enough to walk the dogs, they can still sit and read with or spend time with some of the animals in the lounge to help get the animals used to human interaction and socialization.

we also spent time in the animal lounge with the other dog in residence, a ten year old tan coloured cross breed named Honey. Chris explained that Honey had not had any socilization prior to arriving at the SAA, so she had been doing cage training with her, using reward training techniques and would often arrange for over-night stays with some of the other volunteers so that Honey could learn how to be a good dog from their (volunteers) older dogs in a home fostering situation.
Honey enjoying a biscuit I took up for her
Before leaving, we went to see the feral cats out-houses, which are like giant garden sheds, with shelter, food and bedding inside for the feral cats to use as they wished when the weather is bad or they want somewhere to go. The SAA does neuter all of their feral/semi-feral cats and sometimes will re-home them on farms as they make good mouse catchers for those who have areas at risk from rodent infestations. Rachel told me that their local brownie group often collects cat food and then when they visit in the summer, the brownies are given sheets with all the feral cats on so they might try to spot and count them all.

Inside one of the feral shelters

Finally, we spent a few moments in Peggy's memorial garden to pay our respects to the woman who started it all, then set off on the drive home.

The shelter relies heavily on donations and costs approximately £400 per day to run, they have a small number of paid staff and a larger volunteer team.Their fundrasing is done mainly through sponsorship and open day events, such as fairs. The next fair to be held is their Spring Fair at the end of this month.

Here is the interview transcript with Rachel who was our tour guide and key source of information on the SAA.

What made you want to become a volunteer at SAA and how did you get involved? 
In December 2002 we adopted a rabbit who at the time was their longest stay animal and I volunteered to help at the next Spring Fair as a way of thanking the SAA for all they had done caring for him during his 8 month stay. After that, I was hooked!
Which sector of the sanctuary do you work in the most? 
I help hands on with the rabbits and with the Fundraising.
After being at SAA for 10 years, you will have seen many changes and many animals come and go. Are there any particular ones that have stuck in your mind?
There have been many animals that I would have loved to have given a home to if I could - probably too many to mention.   I feel so sorry for the animals who are constantly over looked because of their bred/nature/colour and I wish I could home them all.  we have a lovely Staffie cross in at the moment -please visit our website and look for Dexter in our dogs for re-homing section, sadly, because of the bad press his breed receives, no one wants him.  

**Edit - A home visit check for the potential adoption of Dexter was being arranged in early March**
I have heard that a young gelding, named Walter, is being stabled at SAA after being released from a testing facility (facility name unknown) along with another horse. Is this true and is it common to have a small number of animals come to reside at the SAA after legitimate release from test facilities?  
These were signed over to the care of another organisation - Unite to Care - we just provided stabling for them.  The dogs, cats and rabbits we take in are signed over by their owners, or in the case of cats and rabbits sometimes found as strays.

As you're also a trustee of SAA, how does that role differ from your volunteer position?
It's like wearing two hats.  When I'm hands on with the animals, I do the tasks the same as all the other volunteers. But there are times when I wear another hat and have a greater responsibility.
What are the SAA's plans for the future? Do they wish to expand or to purchase another site so that they may have multiple shelters under the SAA name? 
We've no plans to buy another site, but are currently working on cat development plans, with long term plans to increase the number of dog kennels.

And finally, if there is anything you could say to the readers of Project52, what would that be?
There is so much to that - from a rescue point of view, please support rescue not pet shops or breeders.  If you have animals, please ensure they are neutered, this prevents unwanted  pregnancies when there are already many hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals in rescue looking for homes.  Also microchip them, we receive lots of reports of well loved animals who have gone missing, sadly without a microchip the chances of them being reunited with their animals are slim.   As some who has animals of their own - insure them as vets bills can easily run to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. 

Thank you to Rachel and the wonderful staff and volunteers at SAA from myself and the readers of Project52 

If you would like to visit, volunteer or support the SAA in any way, please get in touch with them via their website,

The next open day, which is their 'Spring Fair Fundraiser' is on April 27th 2014. Map and directions can be found on their website under the 'contact us' section.  

Monday, 14 April 2014

week 16 - carrying on

update: since last week's post I've donated to Caged Northwest's close down Wimbledon campaign, as closing down a greyhound racing track will not only reduce the number of animals that are being mistreated as well as potential re-homing of homeless dogs as some get dumped rather than killed when no longer of use.  I also donated to 'Rescue me!' which is a foster and re-homing scheme based in Merseyside, and Dr. Hadwen trust whilst at the LABL vegan fair in Liverpool last Saturday.

For this week's activity, as I already sponsor a dog, Skye, through the dogs trust I shall be signing up to become a member of another animal charity.... and will let my facebook fans vote on who that shall be!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Week 15 - on the spot

This saturday, I shall be attending the LABL vegan fair in Liverpool, UK

As many of the major animal charities as well as a few smaller, not so well known ones, will be there, it is the perfect time to make on the spot donations and inquiries into what Project52 can do for them.

I am hoping that some of the new business cards for Project52 will have arrived by then, so that I can take the opportunity to help the fanbase grow and raise even more awareness for the causes documented and supported by us.

There is an updated Feed Burner account for Project52, for subscribers, which can be found here:

a new email address (in case some of you have been trying to get in touch but had problems) :

and of course, our facebook page is here:

I am also pleased to announce that Project52 can now offer 10% off for all new customers to Moo print (who are making our cards!)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Spotlight on.... Soi Dog Foundation

As April is 'help the homeless Animals' month here at Project52, it seemed only fitting to have a Q&A session with a wonderful not-for-profit organisation, the Soi Dog Foundation!

With thanks to Gregg at Soi Dog.

Soi Dog foundation is a relatively young foundation, it is a not-for-profit foundation aimed at helping the dogs and cats of Phuket, Thailand, and was started in 2003, meaning that it has recently celebrated it's 10th anniversary. What inspired you to want to become involved in working for Soi Dog Foundation?

Soi Dog Foundation has a great reputation in the animal welfare field. For years, I had heard that Soi Dog not only has a well-run animal shelter, it is establishing a healthier, smaller dog population throughout the island of Phuket, it responds to disasters, and it collaborates with other organizations. This, combined with the fact that the organization is growing rapidly, motivated me to join Soi Dog. 

Many charities and not-for-profit organizations use charity shops, public donations or fundraising events such as table-top sales to raise funds and awareness for their cause. How does Soi Dog foundation raise awareness for their cause; the dogs and cats of Phuket that need aid and care?

Our most effective means for raising awareness is our Facebook page, . We post stories of the dogs and cats we rescue and restore to health, updates about our campaign to end the dog meat trade, and other news. Our, also has a lot of information. Soi Dog supporters around the world plan events to raise awareness and much-needed funds to help the dogs and cats in Thailand. Because Soi Dog receives no money from the government and is entirely dependent on donations from people around the world, this support is essential.

A rescued cat receiving treatment

Upon doing research for this Q&A session, I found articles that claimed that Soi Dog Foundation was a scam, and then many times in those same articles, revealed that they had found that others were committing scams and fraud by claiming to be a part of Soi Dog Foundation, and then giving false links for people to send donations to, some even went as far as to pose as the founder of Soi Dog Foundation, John Dalley. [NB I spoke to a member of the real Soi Dog Foundation for this Q&A session]. How has these scams that have clearly slandered the name of Soi Dog Foundation damaged it's reputation and how has Soi Dog bounced back from this?

It's very sad that some people feel the need to hurt organizations that are successful, or use that success for their own ends. Soi Dog has been subjected to this, but the impact was really quite small. Many people know that Soi Dog is doing effective hands-on work to help animals in need, and very few people have been convinced by any misrepresentations. 

One of the ways that Soi Dog raises the much needed funds for veterinary care of the animals is by adoption/sponsorship of some of the animals in Soi Dog's care, how else does Soi Dog raise funds for their cause?

Our most important source of support is from people sponsoring animals in our care ( Some people make larger donations, such as for building a shelter for dogs rescued from the dog meat trade, which is wonderful. We also request grants from foundations that give to animal welfare programs.

"Sleeky" - A Dog helped by Soi Dog Foundation

A wonderful example of how others can see for themselves the important work Soi Dog Foundation does is by viewing 'soi-dogs the-movie' How has the film changed the public's view of Soi Dog and has it had a positive impact on the future of the foundation?

The movie has been terrific for raising awareness about Soi Dog Foundation worldwide. It has also given us legitimacy by showing that we really help many dogs and cats in need.

Another way that Soi Dog foundation helps the homeless animals of Phuket is by finding them new homes, some times these new homes can be abroad, with a travel carer assigned to the dog to help them successfully fly from Thailand to their new country of residence. Do you have a favourite re-homing story to share?

Soi Dog foundation has managed to expand to have a branch in Bangkok, Thailand and has previously joined forces with other animal rescue groups to support each other during times of flooding. What are Soi Dog Foundation plans for the future?

We definitely intend to address the huge stray dog problem in Bangkok. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs there and we need to spay, neuter, and vaccinate the majority of them to humanely reduce their population and decrease the incidence of rabies. We also want to extend Soi Dog's reach to other places where there are large street dog populations, in Thailand and possibly elsewhere. 

Finally, if there was anything you could say to the readers of Project52 blog, what would that be?

Thank you for taking the time to learn about Soi Dog. All of our work to help animals is only possible because of support from people like you!

Thank You Gregg from myself and the readers of Project52 for helping Soi Dog Foundation carry out their important work!

Friday, 4 April 2014

World Rat day

Today is World Rat Day!

World Rat Day

If you own a rat, give them some love for their special day!

If you don't own a rat, please consider signing a petition against the use of lab rats and other animals. Give support to a group such as Dr Hadwen's trust who fund research into alternatives to animal testing! for more information, please visit:

Thursday, 3 April 2014

week 14 - help for homeless animals month starts

Hi everyone!

I'm feeling much better this week as my cough is back under control, have been busy doing research for features for later this month, and also in my private life, I went to see Adam Ant at the ritz and am at another concert, to see Halestorm, later this week. All work and no fun makes for a dull blogger!

Within this week's activities, I donated some goods to my local PDSA charity shop, and received an email this morning to say that they had raised £7.50 already, just between now and sunday lunch time when I dropped them off.

I am also taking part in an online charity auction for The Asswen(?) project, who help look after donkeys and working animals in countries such as India. So far, my donated item has reached £4 in bids, and a self-catering mid week break I am bidding on myself is at over £180. Whilst these charities are aimed at supporting animals that do have owners, they also help reduce the number of homeless animals by ensuring they can stay where they are, rather than become abandoned or surrendered to our already overcrowded animals shelters for being too expensive to keep.

This weekend, I will also be taking part in a Guinness world record attempt for the largest fairy gathering in the world. I am hoping to use that event to raise awareness of Project52ayear, and in turn, the charities featured within this blog.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April - Help for Animals

April - Homeless Animals

  • As mentioned back in March, animals can also be the victims of being made homeless, they may be abandoned, abused, neglected, become stray and end up at the pound / in the animal shelter system. 

  • If you are considering getting a new pet, please, please go to your local animal shelter / sanctuary first. The staff there will be able to help match you with the right dog, cat, bunny, rat, bird etc for you, and YOU WILL SAVE A LIFE. Many shelters are over-run with animals looking for new homes and often have to turn away animals that need their help, or send otherwise healthy, ideal for companionship animals to be destroyed as there is no where else for them to go... humane death or die on the streets is a sad factor facing thousands upon thousands every year. Adopt a pet - save a life, but please remember that a pet is not a gift for a special occasion to be traded in for an upgrade like an object. They are a life time commitment. 

  • If you would like to help out an animal shelter or sanctuary, then go look for one close enough for you to travel to, and take part in one of their open days or fundraisers. You could donate old (but clean) blankets, pet beds, foods, toys for the animals, or bric-a-brac for table-top sales at these events. My favourite local shelter is called Bleakholt It is based in the north west of England, near to my home town. Their spring open day is at the end of April, so as part of that week's activity, my blog update will feature Bleakholt and some of the animals there. The open days calendar can be seen here: I would like to invite any guest bloggers to post details of their own local shelters, to visit those when they have open days and post spotlights for those too. 

  • Sponsor an Animal! Yup, you can help an animal right there from the comfort of your own home. you don't need to travel to an event, you don't need to feed it by hand or clean up after it, as that is done for you by the care team of that particular animal. I, myself, purchased two animal sponsor packs, a chimp and a wolf pack as Christmas gifts for my family in 2013 (these were done through the Born Free Foundation I also currently sponsor a dog named 'Scooby' through The Dogs Trust. 

[update 24/01/2014 - I have been informed that Scooby sadly passed away in the last week, and so I now have a new sponsor Dog, named Skye. RIP Scooby]

Another way to help animals is quite simple, and all you will need is a pair or rubber or safety gloves, sensible shoes and a bin liner (rubbish/refuse sack) - Clean Up Crew! 

  • get together a group of your friends, and go for a walk on your nearest beach, woodlands or nature park /river or stream. It is an unfortunate fact that people like to dump trash in local areas rather than dispose of it properly, and anybody who has watched any animal rescue tv programs will have seen footage of birds who have gotten fishing hooks caught on their beaks or wings, or fish that have swam into trash and can't get out of it, or animals who have become sick from the water being polluted in their natural habitat. 
  • So get together a group of your friends, go for a walk or a picnic, and take what you need with you, then when you get there, let the clean-up commence! 
  • collect any rubbish you find that is safe for you to remove - don't want anybody to get stabbed with glass or a drug user's needle, and then dispose of it properly. The animals and the environment will thank you for taking away anything that will continue to pollute their area. You might even find some beautiful pebbles, feathers, shells or drift wood to take home as a souvenir! 
I was inspired to add this as an April activity after watching a trailer for the film 'Midway' which focuses on the rather cute Albatross (bird). One image on screen does show the inside of a dead albatross that has died from ingesting trash when trying to feed :( 

to view the trailer, or to support the 'Midway' film project, please visit: midway film - view trailer or follow the progress of Midway film project