Reporter gives insight into Bromsgrove Blue Cross' festive season

Monday 23 December 2013 Updated: 02/01 16:35

THREE pets are abandoned every hour during the Christmas period according to figures released by one animal charity. This means the work done by The Blue Cross Rehoming Centre in Catshill, Bromsgrove, is now more vital than ever to the surrounding communities.

The centre takes cats and dogs in all year round and it is just one of the many organisations which has dedicated its time to helping homeless pets.

With the festive season being one of the busiest times of year for the Blue Cross staff, Standard reporter Beth Sharp went down to the centre to find out what challenges they faced on a daily basis over Christmas and new year.

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AFTER being given a warm welcome from the staff, receptionist Emma Jones explained how the adoption process worked.

In recent years the ways people adopt a new furry family-member has changed. Visitors now have to go through a detailed process which ensures pets and their new owners are properly matched and their lifestyles are suited.

On account of all the animals' welfare, tours around the cattery or kennels have been stopped. This means potential owners can no longer take a stroll around the centre whilst they look at the animals and simply pick one they like the look of. This change was made as the stress caused from the noise made by large amounts of people continuously walking past the pens was deemed too much.

The staff explained while this may disappoint some people who want to be able to meet the residents, the animals dislike people, especially children, walking past their pens and sticking their fingers in, epecially when they are in a strange, scary and unknown environment.

After this, the staff, who all have their own sections of the centre to take care of, took it in turns to give me a tour and explain what an normal day in the life of a Blue Cross worker was like.

Everyone starts at 8am and it is all hands to the pump straight away. Every pooch and moggy is served their breakfast and let out into their outdoor pen for a stretch as it is the first chance they get for 16 hours.

Then the cleaning commences and the other first priority for the staff is doing the 'first walk' dogs - those who are either high energy hounds and therefore are desperate to get out or who will not go to the toilet in their inside kennels.

Each dog normally has three 20 to 30-minute walks a day. As there are only 23 members of staff, volunteers play a vital role in keeping things ticking over. One member of staff said without their generous volenteers, the centre would not be able to function properly.

During my visit, I was lucky enough to able to have a personal tour of the kennels and meet the current residents and, although it is clear the staff go completely out of their way to ensure every animal was happy, healthy and well looked after, I felt an overwhelming sadness.

As I was walked around I stopped at each kennel to say hello. Most were wagging their tail happily, loving the attention but some looked scared and confused as to why they were there.

It was heart-breaking to think how so many of them would not be with a loving family this festive season and how none of them would be sat under the dinner table licking up dropped bits of food or having the chance to sneakily be handed bits of turkey from the children.

The staff explained the most popular reason people gave up their pet was not because they did not want them anymore but because of money issues.

Marriage breaks and redundancies have resulted in a lot of people having to downsize or sell their owned home and move to a rented property where pets were not allowed.

Everyone at the centre works especially hard to get new animals up for adoption within one month. The staff explained they had to set aside a time between 9am and 9.30am every morning to deal with a vet diary appointment.

Every animal who comes into the centre has to have a full vet check, be nuetured, vaccinated (at least once), microchipped, wormed, fleed and be fitted with a pherimone collar which helps keep them calm.

Dogs are also given on and off lead tests which assess their personalities and attitudes around people and other canines.

If an animal is not rehomed within three months, arrangements are then made to have them moved to a different centre with a new audience. I found it interesting to find that in each area of the UK, the centres have one particular breed which tends to be brought in. The most popular dog breed in this region was bull terrier crosses whereas in Devon, more border collie crosses are admitted.

When we moved on to tour the cattery every pen was full. Staff said they was a waiting list for cats to be brought in and that during the winter months the cattery became particularly busy. A lot of stray cats are brought by concerned residents who have been feeding them in the summer and are worried how they will cope outside in the cold weather.

As my day at the Blue Cross came to an end, I left with a feeling of comfort from the kindness and compassion shown by the staff and volunteers towards the four-legged creatures and how they had all developed personal and genuine relationships them.

They are not treated like an annoying customers in a shop which the staff want to get ride of as soon as posssible, they are treated with love and care and are all missed when they find new homes.

At the centre the staff have a motto - 'Once a Blue Cross animal always a Blue Cross animal'. If anything ever happens to an owner of a Blue Cross animal then the charity will take them back.

Staff also enjoy reunions with the animals and prior to the annual summer fete and dog show each August, there is always the grand pooch parade where workers get a chance to meet up again with some of the dogs who were once rescued by Bromsgrove's Blue Cross.

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