Battersea Dog & Cat's Home in Brands Hatch
PUBLISHED: 07:27 27 November 2014 | UPDATED: 07:27 27 November 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
The Kent brach of the famous centre was set up 15 years ago to cater for animals who found the stresses and strains of being in kennels in central London just too much. Find out how you can get involved and give these formerly unloved and unwanted dogs and cats new hope
For 154 years The Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (set up in 1860 by Mary Tealby as the ‘Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs’) has been reuniting lost dogs and cats with their owners. When they can’t do this, they care for them until new homes can be found.
The charity has become much more familiar to us all since Kent resident Paul O’Grady and his hit ITV show For the Love of Dogs went behind the scenes in 2012.
The celeb dog fan has been back to the Kent branch at Brand’s Hatch, where is an an ambassador, on a number of occasions.
Most memorably was when he met cheese-loving Grommet, the overweight Jack Russell who faced a battle with the bulge to shed weight and win new owners.
This satellite home was set up 15 years ago to cater for animals who found the stresses and strains of being in kennels in central London just too much. It also serves the Kent community, rehoming and taking in animals people can no longer look after.
The Brands Hatch home is tucked away down a single country lane in leafy Kent, a far cry from the bustle of Battersea.
A modern, purpose-built home for up to 40 dogs and 30 cats, it is set on a steep hill with enclosed exercise paddocks to the rear. There is a welcoming reception area where you are greeted by friendly staff – and invariably a dog or two in the office.
There is also a shop and information on the costs and implications of adopting a pet (£85 for a kitten and £135 for a dog).
I was met by Ruth Dongray, rehoming and welfare manager, who talked to me about the processes of rehoming.
This ranges from an initial assessment right up to introducing new owners and any current pets, along with a rigorous home check to try and ensure that the animal’s new home is a ‘forever home.’
Ruth explained the most common reason why animals were brought into the home. “Unfortunately, it is mainly due to the breakdown of relationships and couples splitting up or having to move into rented accommodation and being unable to take animals with them,” she said.
She then took me through to the dogs’ kennels where I met some of the residents, including Charlie, a large Cavalier King Charles spaniel who had survived a vicious badger attack and a lovely little Staffordshire terrier pair who must be rehomed together: Sabre, 11 (we felt she deserves a much cuter name) and Buster, who is eight years old.
I also met Misha, a four-year-old Akita dog. She had been at Battersea for about two months and was brought in because her previous owners were getting divorced and didn’t feel they could look after her anymore.
Ruth said “Misha is a sensitive soul who is really not happy in kennels. She needs an owner who knows her and she can trust.” She seemed really distant and didn’t come forward when I walked past her kennel.
However, Misha certainly showed a lot of animation when her regular rehoming and welfare assistant Chloe Scoones came to take her out on a walk with me in the paddock. She showed herself as such a loving dog and was great on the lead and I do think about her often and wonder if she has found a new ‘forever’ home yet.
I then met Sharon Weller, rehoming and welfare assistant in the cattery who has worked there for seven years, along with Sarah Clarke, a volunteer.
Sarah comes in for one day a week for a few hours to help out with everything that needs to be done with the cats and kittens.
When asked why she volunteered, Sarah told me: “I lost my elderly cat this year and I really miss her and would love another, but I recently re-homed a dog so it is too soon to get another cat. I volunteer so that I can give something back and can still be near cats once a week for a few hours”
The cattery was full to bursting with 38 cats and lots and lots of kittens. I met them all in turn and heard their stories and was pleased to hear that they are usually rehomed very quickly and that there is a waiting list for homes for kittens.
I was treated to a play session with Doris, a nine-month old little tabby cat who had come in with her timid sister Sam. They had only been here for a week and a new home had already been found.
It is a sad fact that not every dog copes well when going into kennels and this is where the invaluable work of foster carers comes in. If a dog comes into the home and finds it simply too distressing, or difficult to cope or needs nursing through a tough time, then they will be selected for care in a volunteer’s home.
Melvin Swan is one such volunteer and I met him with Poppy, an eight-year-old Staffordshire cross who had been with him for six weeks. He had brought her back into the home to meet her potential new ‘forever’ owner for the second time.
Mel, who worked with dogs in the army in Hong Kong as a young man, has retired from the police force. He is still very active and away a lot with his wife, so unable to have a dog full time, which makes fostering a perfect option for him.
Mel told me: “It is quite honestly the most therapeutic thing I have ever done and this first fostering experience has been really good for me.”
On my way out I bumped into (and promptly fell in love with) Tula, a four-year-old Canary dog.
She had been at Battersea Brands Hatch since January but had just come back from a walk with her potential new owners and now hopefully has a new home.
I do hope the many animals I met can quickly be added to the ‘Book of Happy Endings’ that sits in reception. In the meantime, Happy 15th birthday Battersea Brands Hatch and many more ahead. n