A guinea pig called Elf, a cat with a tummy tuck, a ferret and four pigs are among scores of abandoned animals looking for new homes before Christmas – and shoppers at Stretford Mall are helping feed them in the meantime.
Staff at Co-operative Travel have launched their annual Christmas appeal for donations of pet food, toys and equipment at Stretford Mall, in aid of Animals in Distress.
Assistant manager at the Co-operative Travel branch in Stretford Mall, keen animal lover Kira Foden, started running the annual collection after she got her own pet dog called Princess from the Animals in Distress charity, seven years ago.
As well as Elf the guinea pig and his hutch mate Wriggles, the charity based in Irlam is currently sheltering more than 100 potential pets including 56 cats, 30 horses, 20 budgies, 14 rabbits, five dogs, four pigs, two donkeys, and a ferret.
Already the charity has picked up the first load of donations from Stretford Mall shoppers, which will benefit the animals as they need to be fed and kept warm, while they wait to find new owners.
Animals in Distress is also appealing for the public’s help to rehome as many of their animals as possible before Christmas, and have released images of some of those who need help most.
Among them are two-year-old dog called Neville, who has been at the sanctuary most of his life. Charity manager Mel Dunn said: “Neville came to us as a six-month-old pup but he’s a cross breed with quite a bit of bull mastiff in him so he’s a big dog.
“He’s a hefty fella so people are put off taking him but he’s got a really lovely nature and will respond to voice and hand signals.
“He hasn’t got a nasty bone in his body but when he gets excited he can be quite boisterous and once his big tail starts wagging he could send small children flying!
“He’d love a home with a bit of space and someone who’ll take him out for long walks but most of all he’s just looking for love.
“Neville gets on fine with other dogs and he’s been here for 18 months now and it’s such a shame that he’s still here.”
Some smaller dogs looking for new homes include an older Beagle called Hooch who wants to be rehomed with his terrier friend, and another more senior terrier Molly, who has been with the centre for some time.
Mel said guinea pigs Elf and Wriggles have been with the charity for three months.
She said: “Their owners just couldn’t cope with them any longer.
“Mainly animals come to us because people get them as pets, but then they get too big and they have to give them up.
“We are very careful about rehoming animals, especially if they are to be a present, as we need to be sure the new owner knows what to expect and will be able to look after them long term.”
Among the more unusual animals being looked after are four pigs called Rodney, Bella, Chilli and Blossom.
Mel added: “We’ve got 56 cats that need rehoming too – all of them neutered – some in pairs and some feral so best for people with a farm.
“Poppy, a dark tortoiseshell has been with us a long time as that’s not a popular colour and we have an old three-legged lady, Lara, too.
“She’d have to be an indoor cat and is getting on but would love a quiet life with someone.
“We’ve also got Frieda the ferret who we’ve had here for over a year now, and we’ve got rabbits galore!”
Anyone who wants to help Animals In Distress but isn’t able to adopt an unwanted pet, is urged to keep the contributions coming at Co-operative Travel in Stretford Mall.
Assistant manager Kira Foden, a keen animal lover who has her own pet dog called Princess, said: “This is the sixth year we’ve done the collection and it always goes really well.
“We get a fantastic response every time and we have regular contributors now who have been coming in for months now asking when we would be collecting.
“We’ve had all sorts donated too – last year someone came in with huge bags of chicken feed and hay for rabbits and there is one lady who always knits blankets and things for the dogs.”
The Animals In Distress collection started at the beginning of November, and Co-op staff have already handed over their first batch of contributions from kind shoppers.
Kira, who has been at Stretford Mall for eight years, said: “We’ve all animal lovers in store, we’ve all got pets ourselves so we like being able to help out. We can’t thank our customers enough for their continued support and generosity.”
Split between two sites, one in Irlam and one in Littleborough, the sanctuary needs constant supplies of food, toys, blankets, beds and other animal equipment.
Thanking shoppers for their kind donations, Mel added: “It costs us £7,000 a week to keep running and that was a few years ago so every donation helps us out so much.
“It leaves us money to spend on other things like the vet bills so this support is absolutely fantastic.”
Stretford Mall centre manager Gareth Wilkins said: “Animals in Distress do some fantastic work, and we are very happy to support this appeal.
“I hope lots of our shoppers will join in and make a donation.”
The final batch of goodies will be collected up for the charity on December 14 so shoppers are urged to get their donations in to the Co-op Travel store at Stretford Mall before that date.
You can find out more about Animals in Distress on their website: http://www.animals-in-distress.co.uk or to contact them phone: 0161 775 2221.
For information about Stretford Mall go to www.stretfordmall.com follow @StretfordMall on Twitter or visit the centre’s Facebook page.