Teesdale animal rescue centre sees influx of pets people ‘cannot afford’
BOOST in volunteer numbers has allowed Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre to open to the public seven afternoons a week.
The shelter, at Thorpe Farm near Greta Bridge, was closed for 13 weeks during the coronavirus lockdown but partially reopened when restrictions were lifted.
Terry Bowes, of Wetheriggs, said: “A lot of special needs volunteers and students tend the animals and it was felt it was only possible to open four afternoons each week.”
But after staff and managers got their heads together, the daily timetable was adjusted. This made opening for seven afternoons possible, taking into account the new government guidelines.
The centre’s profile was raised significantly when news of its financial plight was highlighted during the pandemic, prompting more people to offer their help.
Mr Bowes said: “Before the pandemic we had 40 different volunteers. We have now passed 70 – it has been very humbling.”
As well as managing the strain on finances at the centre, the lockdown also brought a huge influx of animals that people found they could no longer afford to keep.
Mr Bowes said: “We have a reptile centre that now is full of snakes and lizards. We took in 15 royal pythons.
“The big cost of keeping reptiles is the heating. There is the electricity of keeping them warm and the environment you keep them in because you have to have a UV light.”
Corn snakes and bearded dragons were among the other unusual pets that were offloaded at Wetheriggs.
The reopening of the shelter has been an eye opener for volunteers who have noticed strange reactions by some animals to people wearing facemasks.
Mr Bowes said: “It’s the pigs particularly. Sometimes they get a bit aggressive when they can’t see people’s faces. They need to see people’s expressions – some of the animals come from homes where they were abused by people.”
A positive note was the birth of a number of animals during the pandemic.
Mr Bowes said: “We had a baby pygmy donkey. The pygmy donkey is rarer than the giant panda, but people couldn’t see it because we were closed.”
Gloria the pygmy donkey has grown quite a bit since her birth and people can visit her on any afternoon in the week, thanks to the new volunteer timetable.
Despite the success of an open day last month the centre is still struggling financially.
Mr Bowes said: “Help will continue to be needed to get us through the barren winter months.
“Please give your support by visiting the centre or giving a donation.”
For more information visit wetheriggsanimalrescue.co.uk