'Animals will always come first' is pledge of devoted staff at sanctuary facing £100,000 electricity bill
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The electricity bills at the Edenfield sanctuary have doubled to almost £100,000 a year and it’s something they have to deal with as they look after dogs, cats, pigs, horses, donkeys and more at the 55-acre sanctuary, which all need special care.
They are also gearing up for people giving up their pets as the cost of living crisis hits home, many with illnesses which require ongoing medical treatment, another rising cost.
The sanctuary is home to 350 animals - around 80 dogs, 120 cats and a rising number of rabbits and small animals waiting to be rehomed while horses, donkeys, pigs, goats and hens live out their lives there.
Bleakholt was started in 1957 with Olive Lomas saving a donkey, Maudie, from slaughter; it became a charity in 1968 and has been growing and developing since then.
Now in their 65th year of existence, the staff are trying to make sure Bleakholt remains for at least another 65 years as they battle through a tough period.
They are bidding to make their site as environmentally friendly as possible, 8,500 trees will be planted in November to help with wildlife in the area and they are hoping to find grants or fundraise around £270,000 so the sanctuary can run on renewable energy.
They already make their own hay to save money and have applied for grants and donations which have helped them develop the sanctuary over the last few years with new modern dog kennels, which were opened in November 2018 and have under floor heating, an £18,000 kitten room as well as a £75,000 cattery redevelopment which was officially opened earlier this year by Bleakholt President, Hits Radio star Gemma Atkinson.
Sanctuary Manager Karen Weed said: “Over the last few years, there has been a lot of work done at Bleakholt to bring it up-to-date and make sure all our animals have the best facilities possible while they either wait for their forever homes or settle into life at Bleakholt.
“We do everything from recycling and upcycling to make sure Bleakholt is as environmentally friendly as possible and also to help with cutting costs.
“Our electricity and gas bill has doubled over the last few months which is frustrating as we would much rather spend our money on helping more animals.
“We are also getting a lot more animals into our care which need medical treatment. One dog who came in recently, through no fault of his own, is Buster who is a six-year-old Akita who needs surgery on both legs. We have asked for donations and have got some of it as it will cost £7,000. He has had his first operation and we won’t let him down.
“We have charity shops in Ramsbottom and Bury and have just opened a shop in Bacup, selling furniture as well as the usual charity items. It’s always a test when you open a new shop as we are reliant on volunteers to help us but thankfully we have got a good group of volunteers, although we are always looking for more.
“We also hold fundraising events such as our Hallowe’en Spooky Family Fun Day on October 30th, we always have our annual Christmas Shoebox appeal which is well-supported and hold our Open Days which are always well-attended but we understand people are struggling too. Ways to help the sanctuary without costing anything, are by choosing Bleakholt as your chosen charity through Amazon Smile and Pets at Home VIP Club.”
Joint Stables Manager Sheila Linley admitted she has noticed changes over the last few months. Her and her team look after 39 horses, donkeys and mules.
“There are more applications to come in as obviously looking after horses is expensive,” said Sheila. “If we have a space we go through our list for the most needy.
“We do make our own hay but we have had to switch where we get our shavings for bedding from to somewhere cheaper.”
Sallie Conroy is Rehoming Supervisor for Dogs. She said: “We are not getting as many applications for big dogs as they are obviously more expensive to feed.
“We are also taking in a lot more older dogs and that obviously comes with medical costs.
“We are getting more lockdown animals and people are giving up breeds they have paid for. We had two Dachshunds brought in recently and a bulldog which is unusual.”
Sarah Neild, Dog Welfare Supervisor, said: “There are all sorts of reasons for people bringing their dogs to Bleakholt. Some are for moving house where they can’t take them into rented accommodation, some dogs come in pregnant and some are due to medical bills.
“One dog Bob came from dog warden and his teeth were the worst I have ever seen. We guess he was abandoned because of his teeth but we have sorted them and they are nice and shiny now!”
Cat Section Supervisor Hayley Collins and her team look after around 120 cats.
“We are finding a lot more cats aren’t neutered due to the expense and that brings their own problems,” said Hayley.
“Kittens are surprisingly harder to rehome at the moment, people just aren’t adopting animals like they were.”
Maintenance Co-Ordinator Dan Walmsley said his job has got harder with the rising costs.
“All materials have shot through the roof. We need materials to keep the site going but it is a lot more expensive now to buy what we need.”
Bleakholt has a few celebrity admirers, including singer Lisa Stansfield who said recently she comes to tickle the pigs, actress Maxine Peake has attended open day events and former soap star Gemma is a big supporter in her role as President.
“Like everyone we are having to watch what we are spending,” said Karen. “However, the animals always come first at Bleakholt.”