Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Charity marks 30 years of rescuing unwanted animals

A BOOK has been published to mark the 30th anniversary of an animal welfare charity.

A BOOK has been published to mark the 30th anniversary of an animal welfare charity.

Founder Ann Butler-Smith co-wrote 30 years of Thames Valley Animal Welfare with Monica Hornsey, the charity’s co-ordinator, and “fosterer” Sue Nickson.

It includes stories about some of the cats which the volunteer-run charity has helped to home over the last three decades.

Mrs Butler-Smith, who lives in Rotherfield Peppard, launched the charity after her seven-year-old cat, Huffkins, went missing.

She said: “I found lots of other cats but I had nowhere to put them so I set up a lost and found group.”

The group expanded into a service for finding new homes for abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens.

Volunteer “fosterers” look after the animals in purpose-built heated cat houses until suitable permanent homes are found.

Veterinary treatment is provided as required and adult cats are castrated at local veterinary practices.

The charity now homes about 350 cats and kittens a year, mainly within a 20-mile radius of Henley.

Mrs Butler-Smith said demand for the service was increasing. “This year has been the worst,” she said. “Due to the recession, people are losing their homes and their jobs and they don’t know where to put their animals.

“We have never seen so many dumped cats, particularly pregnant ones.”

Recently, a cat and three kittens were found abandoned in woods near Binfield Heath.

The charity has a policy not to put down animals unless they are very ill, which means it sometimes has to turn them away due to lack of space.

Mrs Hornsey said: “One woman rang at 11pm when she was driving around Reading with her two cats because she had been evicted and she had nowhere to put them.

“It is very difficult to tell people that we have no room, especially when they say ‘what should I do?’ You just have to say that you are sorry but you do not know.”

Mrs Butler-Smith says homes for older cats are most in need. The charity pays the large medical bills for older cats as part of its “golden oldies” scheme.

One her favourite cats from the last three decades was a ginger tom cat called Jamie, who is included in the book.

She said: “When we got him he was absolutely filthy and had black gunk coming out of his ears, broken teeth, a broken tail and corns on his feet.

“He had the big jowls they get when they are not neutered so we took him to the vets to get him sorted. They said we would never cope for this one.” In fact, Jamie became more affectionate as he settled down after the operation.

Mrs Butler-Smith said: “When he came to me he wouldn’t look me in the eyes for days. One day I was gently scratching his head and I heard a giant purr.

“He jumped and I jumped and he turned out to be the sweetest cat that I have ever had.”

Mrs Hornsey is currently looking for a home for Murphy. He used to fight with other cats and was caught in a trap by an owner after one particularly nasty encounter.

“It took three to four weeks for him to calm down,” said Mrs Hornsey. “He is white with a bit of black but you could hardly tell he was white because he was so dirty.

“After about a month all of a sudden he started responding to me. He is a lovely boy and he is ready for a good home. He is never going to be the prettiest of boys but he’s got a lovely personality and lots of character.”

Mrs Hornsey says finding the animals new homes provides a sense of satisfaction.

She said: “Usually we get good feedback and it is lovely to hear that they have settled in well. These sorts of cats usually become real home cats and do not tend to stray too far.”

l30 years of Thames Valley Animal Welfare costs £8 and is available from the Veterinary Centre in Reading Road, Henley. For more information, call 01494 900616 or email

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