'Virtual tickets' on sale to save animal centre from ruin
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A DALE animal rescue centre is offering “virtual tickets” in a bid to save it from financial collapse.
Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre, near Greta Bridge, depends on cash from visitor fees to operate, but the latest Covid-19 enforced closure is taking its toll. Although it continues to enjoy massive amounts of support in the form of animal feed donations, it is desperately short of money to pay its monthly overheads.
Operator Terry Bowes is now pinning the centre’s continued future on people buying “virtual tickets” in exchange for a free visit in the summer. He described the financial strain as “white knuckle stuff”.
Mr Bowes added: “Sometimes when we have ‘had it’, something has happened to pull us through.”
As for the new ticket scheme, he said: “If they pay now then they can come in anytime once we are open again. If we get open for Easter, I think the extra publicity we have had will bring in more people.
“I think there will be a lot less people going out of the country [for their holidays]. I think over here and the Lakes will have a renaissance – we could have the best season since the Second World War.”
A predicted “baby boom” over the coming weeks might help to bring in extra visitors when the re-opening happens as the centre hopes more people will want to see the new-born animals.
Among those expecting are the centre’s Cameroon sheep, where last year the hopes of getting some purebred lambs was upset by an errant Shetland sheep in a neighbouring paddock.
Mr Bowes said: “Jock the Shetland jumped the fence and messed up the breeding programme. We ended up with a hybrid.”
The centre’s rare golden Guernsey goats are also expecting offspring.
Another impact on the centre has been the virus itself, with one staff member and one volunteer falling ill. Fortunately, the operators predicted this possibility and volunteers were split into specific shift bubbles to ensure the impact is kept to a minimum.
Mr Bowes said: “People are great – there has been so much support. We have people who are on furlough coming in to help and we have students who are not at college coming in, which is great.”
Another saving grace has been donations from supermarkets, with Tesco at Catterick Garrison providing a bumper Christmas for the animals with a delivery of tonnes of fruit and vegetables.
Sainsbury’s at St Helen Auckland also makes a weekly contribution. Mr Bowes said: “Sainsbury’s must save us £2,000 to £3,000 a month.”
Anyone who wants to support the centre by buying virtual tickets can ring 01833 627444 to make a contactless payment.