How a Banbury animal rescue charity survived the Covid-19 pandemic and needs help for the future

Banbury animal rescue charity - Banbury Animal Rescue and Kindness Service (BARKS) - survived the Covid lockdown but needs help moving towards the future.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 2:20 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 2:22 pm
BARKS volunteer Wendy Lewis with Milo who would love to find a new owner (Image from BARKS)

Animals in need have to be fed and cared for, come what may. No matter what's happening in the rest of the world. Even in a pandemic.

Twice every day of the Covid crisis, even in deepest lockdown, dozens of cats, kittens and other domestic pets, taken in by Banbury Animal Rescue and Kindness Service (BARKS), have been cuddled, cleaned up and medicated to keep them healthy and active until life could get back to normal.

The small volunteer team running Banburyshire's leading pet rescue charity have had to be clever and resourceful to find Covid-safe ways of tending the animals - as well as keeping the enterprise financially afloat against the odds.

Resident BARKS rescue cats enjoy their new pen (Image from BARKS charity)

BARKS Chair Ann Collins said: “We've never stopped taking in and caring for animals in need, despite having no choice but to close our doors for adoptions which, sadly, deprived animals of loving homes and removed another vital source of income.

“All physical fundraising stopped last March, as did social events which attract members and sponsors. We've had to use ingenuity and persistence to devise other ways to keep some income coming in.

“Successful ideas have ranged from online cat and small furry shows and raffles to a recycling and upcycling scheme and a local house builder sponsorship. We launched a 'StayCATion Appeal' for donations and we're also grateful that some of our long-term sponsors have stuck with us, like the Track House near Shipston. Our talented band of crafters also stayed active, keeping our BARKS website store going with lovely gifts, toys and homewares.”

Extra funds have had to go on practical things, like building Covid-safe pens.

Bodge the tabby cat is looking for a new furever home (Image from BARKS charity)

She added: “Between lockdowns, when there was a brief period of re-opening, we had to spend valuable funds on a socially-distanced viewing area as our pens are too small to allow members of the public to enter with us.”

Due to tight space at the Bodicote rescue centre, careful shifts and remodelling made animal care socially-distanced and safe. The team also introduced a new outdoor cat recreation pen to accommodate the pets who need an exercise yard.

With lockdown easing, the team are now contending with new challenges.

She said: “Over the last year, we've taken in many elderly and sickly cats. Sadly, however, now, more than ever, most people want young animals or kittens as that's what the market has been offering them, at a price.

Cats enjoy the sunshine in their new recreation pen (Image from BARKS charity)

“So it's a complex task: adoptions are slow, elderly animals remain without homes and income is minimal, while vet bills are higher than average.”

Not to be deterred, the team have set up a wider animal fostering network, begun a membership reminder scheme and introduced a more formal volunteer recruitment process – with an interview-style approach – to attract people who can offer practical help or marketing and fundraising willingness and expertise.

Looking forward

Following the Covid period, BARKS expect the need for pet rescue in Banburyshire to get even greater.

Pat McCombes cuddles a new BARKs rescue cat - he's such a recent arrival he has no name yet (Image from BARKS charity)

Bodicote rescue centre manager, Theresa Grant, said: “There are already reports of abandoned lockdown animals and, like most rescues, we're expecting this to increase as some people have taken on animals without understanding the implications.

"There's likely to be a long-term influx of unwanted animals, and we're steeling ourselves for the impact this may have.”

BARKS is back in business and keen to attract suitable adoption homes for a range of cats, kittens and other small furries.

For more information see their website here: https://www.barks.org.uk/ or contact them at [email protected], or join their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/BarksBanbury or phone their Bodicote rescue centre on 07427 063178.

BARKS basics – who they are and what they do:

BARKS saves, cares for and re-homes cats, kittens and a range of small furry pets. They also take on a few foster puppies.

Volunteer Pat McCombes prepares the lockdown viewing area (Image from BARKS charity)

They are the oldest animal rescue and care charity in Banburyshire.

They focus on:

- High welfare and hygiene standards for the animals

- Having a regular turnover of re-homed animals

- Maintaining a widespread network of fosterers and supporters

- Winning good public feedback

- Above all, being kind in all that they do, both in animal care and work in the community. (Their name, Banbury Animal Rescue & Kindness Service, is really important to them, not just a convenient acronym).