Friends of the Animals, RCT, Wales
In this “To the Rescue!” feature we are meeting the wonderful people from Friends of the Animals, in Rhondda Cynon Taf County (RCT), in Wales.
In the eleven years since it was founded, Friends of the Animals Wales has grown into a major operation with thousands of supporters around the world. And like many wonderful rescues, its beginnings come with a very personal story.
The founder, Eileen Jones, was devastated when her dog, Sophie the Yorkshire Terrier, disappeared from her front garden in Porth in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys in South Wales. Eileen began a relentless search of dog pounds, rescue centres, and puppy farms to try and find Sophie. And it was during this search that Eileen saw first-hand the lack of rescue infrastructure in South Wales and the urgent and critical need for coordinated rescue, search, and shelter for vulnerable and abandoned animals in the region.
In Sophie’s memory, Friends of the Animals RCT was born. In the beginning, Eileen worked two jobs, taking on an additional cleaning job in order to fund the rescue work personally. The rescue has grown considerably since then and now has supporters all around the world.
Friends of the Animals RCT (FOARCT) has also grown in scope to become Friends of the Animals Wales (FOA Wales), assisting animals both within and beyond the Rhondda Cynon Taf Valleys with a national network of volunteers. And it’s not just an adoption service. FOA Wales is an invaluable operation for Wales, not only in terms of support to pounds, but also in rescue, shelter, lost and found, social support, skills training and more.
All Creatures Great and Small
Importantly, FOA Wales rescues all species. As well as dogs, the charity has helped thousands of cats, rabbits, turtles, goats, horses and more. Sadly, a lot of these animals have far fewer options and rescue support than dogs and so FOA Wales is a vital rescue for the area. Without Friends of the Animals, many of these animals would be left with no-one.
FOA Wales has maintained a policy never to turn away an animal. The rescue has become a last hope for elderly, injured, or disabled animals, victims of cruelty, and dogs found straying with no home at all.
One such case is Rodney the West Highland White Terrier, who was born without back paws. Thanks to the extensive fundraising efforts and tireless work of the rescue staff, Rodney has gone on to receive prosthetic limbs from Dr Noel Fitzpatrick, the Supervet! He is even set to feature in the next season of Supervet, beginning Monday 8 November!
And FOA Wales responds with a complete and comprehensive approach to rescue. Pets are a crucial part of our society and research has shown how especially significant they are for social support. FOA Wales knows how important it is to keep families together. So the rescue also assists vulnerable owners to stay together with their pets, including in emergency situations. As part of this, the rescue offers emergency respite accommodation for pets, such as when owners have been urgently hospitalised or have been forced to move to refuge accommodation in circumstances of domestic violence.
FOA Wales also donates surplus dog and cat food to local foodbanks, as well as toys and bedding. And the rescue works with large national charities and veterinary practices to offer important services in discounted or free microchipping, vaccinations, neutering and other medical treatments.
Lost and Found
FOA Wales also provides a crucial service to the region for missing, lost, or stolen dogs and cats. The rescue runs a free 24/7 Lost and Found service to help trace the owners of found animals and assist reunions for lost pets. And in fact, it was the volunteers of FOA Wales Lost and Found who spent around 6 months trying to rescue a certain terrified and very slippery Bedlington Terrier who was living and sleeping rough in Aberaman and in urgent need of getting help to safety … our very own Huw Le Lytle. And we all know the rest of that wonderful story!
While many dogs do find their way to local pounds, many more are sleeping rough and some are subjected to terrible cruelty as strays. Poor Huw was just one of those cases. Many more are in need of urgent medical help and these animals benefit from the active rescue and recovery service from FOA Wales to ensure their safety. A lot of resources in time and effort are necessary to ensure such dogs and other animals get a safe place and the care they need.
The rescue is not just a kennel. It is a comprehensive network and community.
Campaigning and Advocacy
FOA Wales has received national acclaim for its work with ex-puppy farm dogs. The rescue not only takes in former puppy farm dogs or puppies born disabled but also actively works in reforming this industry and achieving long-term, sustainable benefits for the dogs.
FOA Wales has also been an active contributor to campaigns in responsible pet ownership, legislative reform, and animal health and welfare issues. Its work in advocacy on animal welfare issues is a crucial and additional dimension to its vital services to animals.
The love these animals give in return is immense. Eileen Jones says, “hundreds of houses have been turned into homes thank to former Friends of the Animals dogs and cats.” And the biggest wonder of all? “We are always in awe of how an animal can continue to love when it has been shown such abandonment or cruelty.” Dogs and cats and other animals rescued from often horrific and terrible circumstances learn to trust again through the tireless and dedicated work of the rescue and its team of volunteers, working together in each animal’s individual rehabilitation and recuperation in home environments.
FOA Wales is also a resource for the local community. The rescue offers volunteering opportunities and work experience opportunities in everything from retail (with two Charity Shops) to dog-walking to veterinary assistance. In some cases, the rescue has been vital in providing experience and assisting individuals to re-enter the work force.
There is extensive research evidence on the value of animals for the physical and psychological health of people. Volunteering is often life-changing for both the animals and the people involved, and FOA Wales looks after its volunteers with the same compassion with which it approaches its rescue work. As Eileen says, “People enjoy better mental and physical health and wellbeing by getting involved in walking the dogs, caring for the cats and joining in fundraising events.”
Friends of the Animals is a community.
And it’s a family.
Special Appeal – FOA Wales needs your help
Recent events have been especially challenging for Friends of the Animals. The rescue was recently served an enforcement order by RCT County Council to cease accepting animals at its current rescue site. An appeal for planning has been denied and so FOA Wales has had to temporarily suspend its 24/7 emergency shelter services and emergency respite care. Its network of foster homes continues and no urgent cases have been turned away, but with the loss of its dedicated rescue site a lot of work will not be possible until new premises for “Wonky Towers” are established.
FOA Wales has launched an international campaign to raise funds to secure a new, dedicated property for the rescue. Every penny donated will count towards ensuring that the important and essential work of FOA Wales will continue permanently through a secure and sustainable rescue base.
Dedicated premises for FOA Wales will provide crucial support for the vital rescue operations and a secure base for services to be coordinated and extended, particularly the 24/7 service for strays and surrenders, for which there is no alternative in the region.
A permanent rescue base will also make it possible to expand the volunteering programmes and create the possibility for apprenticeship schemes and other skills-based learning on site.
Planned programme expansions include:
- Volunteering and training scheme for dog handling and walking
- Pets in therapy programme for elderly and isolated residents
- Education and advocacy campaigns in responsible pet ownership and a local destination for information and community in good pet ownership and care
- Campaigns on breeding welfare and standards, including backyard and puppy farms
- Legislative and welfare reform
- Campaigns against abuse and cruelty
- On-site affordable basic veterinary consultations to help needy animals
- On-site affordable grooming and basic care
At present there is no comparable, coordinated rescue service in the region. And so Friends of the Animals Wales is the only way to help all the creatures, great and small. As Eileen says, “This is a massive project but one that we know will harness the inimitable community spirit and compassion of Friends of the Animals and change lives forever.”
Donations can be made via PayPal FOAWales@aol.com or by bank transfer to Friends of the Animals, Barclays Bank 20 68 76 83684237
There is also a Fundrazr appeal underway and donations can be made here.
Please help if you can. Every penny counts. Just ask Huw.
Categories: To The Rescue