Feature: St Albans rescue centre opens its doors


Millie - Credit: Archant

Black animals struggle to be singled out and adopted because they do not picture well as well on Instagram, small dogs live longer than large ones because the heart is not under so much stress, and rabbits need to be homed in pairs otherwise they get lonely.

Those are just some of the facts the Herts Ad discovered on a tour of a Blue Cross rehoming centre, which is nestled in Kimpton surrounded by rolling green countryside and quaint cottages.

Predictably, the morning was filled with some happy endings, lots of cute faces, plenty of cuddling opportunities, and a few upsetting stories.

A five year old cat had just given birth to yet another litter, a former homeless dog with Cushing’s Disease had no hair and only three legs, and people were turning their noses up at an ex-racing greyhound because of breed stigma.

Huge continental giant rabbits hopped merrily about - Bertie and Bramble were the length of a keyboard and monster-like next to the normal breeds - while Minty the deformed dog was jolly and friendly, waiting to find out if his leg will need to be taken off completely.

When an animal comes to the centre they are assessed and checked for vaccinations, before a loving home is sought.

We stumbled across a demonstration of the centre’s work - a fake pooch, Goldie, was brought out alongside a real dog to assess how quickly it realises the ruse, indicating its socialising experience.

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The dog in question spent an inordinate amount of time realising he was sniffing the bum of a cuddly toy. It obviously works well.

“Everyday is different,” Kirsten Findlay, a rehoming supervisor and our friendly guide, said. “It’s a great job, I really enjoy it.”

After only hours spent at the centre, it’s easy to believe her - the centre have room for 30 dogs, 15 cats, six rabbits, plus kitten and puppy facilities, and she spends her days overseeing their journey from arrival to loving home.

Only 18 paid staff look after everything, but they are boosted by about 100 volunteers.

There are two home rooms, fitted out like living rooms with a sofa and working doorbell, to relax new animals and see their behaviour in a domestic setting - one of them was donated by the Mayor of Broxbourne at the time, Bren Perryman.

Dogs regularly experience new environments playing outside in a sensory garden, like different floor surfaces on their paws, and are taken for walks in the back lanes of farming fields that surround the centre.

Classical music is played throughout the centre to keep boredom away and the animals are not stressfully packed in tight loud spaces.

The centre has gone one step closer with an initiative called Home Direct, where pets stay comfortable at home throughout the whole rehoming process, if it’s appropriate.

The tour ended with a sit down with Kirsten: “I always wanted to work with animals of some kind, and I’ve got the best of both worlds - I spend time with animals and I get to spend time with humans, and I’m making a difference.”

Having worked at the centre for six years, with previous experience in kennels and pet shops, she is a selfless example of someone who genuinely wants to help.

“It’s very important because there are so many animals out there needing homes, there is a stigma with rescue animals, that they needs special homes or are risk.

“But there are so many that need help, need a second or third chance to live a happy life, and there is support for people who want to take one.”

The Blue Cross was founded in 1897 under the name Our Dumb Friends League, to care for working horses in London. Now the charity helps more than 40,000 pets every year - it aims to boost that figure up to 70,000 by 2020.

To donate to the Blue Cross or find out about adopting, click here.