Vital Hayling, Fareham and Chichester animal charities in plea for funding

It was a heart-breaking decision compounding an already dire situation.An NHS nurse had to hand over her beloved cat to a rescue centre having been seconded to the new coronavirus hospital, NHS Nightingale, in London.

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 3:51 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 3:55 pm
Hand-fed fox cub at Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital

They simply had no one else to care for their beloved pet and knew it would be well looked after at the Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre (CRRC), in Chichester.

It is a story that Claire Hyde, the charity’s animal care manager, knows she will be seeing a lot more of over the coming months.

Claire and her much reduced team will have to cope with the increased demand for their services as they struggle to make ends meet because of the huge drop in funding.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Hayling Island Donkey Sanctuary is one of the many local animal sanctuaries that have been hit with a massive dent in their fundraising and may be forced to close. Pictured is: Tracey and Paul Hunt, owners of Hayling Island Donkey Sanctuary. Picture: Sarah Standing (310320-7656)

Claire says: ‘It was heartbreaking for the nurse but there was nothing else they could do.

‘We’re trying to give as much advice as possible to help people keep their animals in their own homes. We’re working out which animals are most in need.’

All of CRRC’s charity shops are closed and staff have been furloughed.

‘Annually, revenue from our shops is approximately £267,000 and our adoption fees – which we will also loose – are £40,000’, says Claire.

Blackbird fledglings at Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital

‘To run our centre each year it costs around £600,000. So, as you can see, it is quite a blow for us to lose that revenue.’

There is only a skeleton crew at a time when the number of animals at the centre is expected to double to 300 as kitten season begins.

Claire is worried about how they will cope. She says: ‘We know it's a really tough time for people, and we’re not demanding donations, but we're asking people to consider going on to our sponsorship scheme or becoming a friend.

‘Because, sadly, although our funding is decreasing, the number of animals in need is not.’

A kitten at Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre, Chichester

It is a similar situation at nearby Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, where Robert Knight is general manager.

The charity has been rescuing sick and injured animals across the area since 1971.

Robert says: ‘We care for more than 3,500 wildlife casualties every year. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and for the first time ever, we have had to make the hard decision to stop all volunteers entering the hospital until further notice.

‘For the safety of the animal care staff and their families only essential staff and animal finders are permitted on site.

‘Our busiest season is just starting and the first of our seasonal influx of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife casualties has already started to arrive, with hedgehogs, young blackbirds, fox cubs and doves needing around-the-clock care.

‘We expect to take in more than 1,000 wildlife casualties over the next few weeks, so volunteers are normally essential.

‘Without the support of a dedicated team of volunteers we have a difficult task ahead ensuring the animals in our care get the same level of treatment they deserve with less hands to help.’

With charity shops closed, fundraising events cancelled, and no volunteers, the coronavirus has put a huge strain on resources. Brent Lodge will be losing about £28,000 a month.

Paul Hunt, the founder of Hayling Island Donkey Sanctuary, described the effects of the coronavirus on the charity as ‘like a tap being turned off’.

He and wife Tracey had had the first two open weekends of the year when they were told they had to close.

They rely on visitors for donations and without them they fear for the future.

The couple bought two much-loved Hayling donkeys, Ollie and Rusty, 14 years ago to continue the tradition of seaside donkey rides.

Over the subsequent years, the couple have rescued a further 18 donkeys who are now living out their lives happily at the Hayling Island Donkey Sanctuary in Mill Rythe Lane.

But that peaceful existence is under threat without the £60,000 a year needed to fund it.

Donations are normally made by visitors to the open weekends, the buying of merchandise, and sponsorship and adoptions.

Tracey says: ‘We are a really important part of the community.

‘We sell a lot of merchandise – mugs, magnets, clothing, key rings. Local people knit woollen donkeys, we even sell donkey fudge and donkey poo raisins.

‘There are care and cuddle workshops where you spend two hours learning all about the donkeys.

‘It was going to be a really busy time for us but now every single thing has ground to a halt. We’ve lost everything we had planned.

‘We have some really lovely supporters in the community and off the island, but it is so scary.

‘All we can do is take each day as it comes. Every day we’re looking online to see if anyone has adopted or donated.

‘It's early days and we’re only on week two. This could go on for months and months and I just don’t know what we will do.’

Over at RSPCA Stubbington Ark, rescuers are urging people to dig deep to get them through this period.

They are currently looking after 90 animals.

Kirstie Blakeley, the animal centre manager, says: ‘During this pandemic, our beloved shelter will struggle financially. We have had to close the doors on our charity shops, we can no longer do street collections or hold events.

‘Our dog boarding has ceased and we are appealing to people to help us care for the animals at the centre at this difficult time by supporting our fundraising appeal.’

It's not just humans suffering. Will you support those who are caring for the animal world’s most vulnerable?

How readers can help

Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre: Make a donation, sponsor or adopt an animal, by calling 01243 641409, or go to

Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital: Pay for cleaning supplies, food, and other essentials through their Amazon Wishlist via Donations can also be made through the site, or call 01243 641672.Hayling Island Donkey Sanctuary: Donations and adoptions of donkeys can be made through residents can buy a bale of hay for the animals at nearby Stoke Fruit Farm Shop. Please only do this if you live on the i sland. Stubbington Ark: You can support the charity by donating via Simply search for ‘RSPCA Solent Branch – Recovering Lost Income’.Go to

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit our Subscription page now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.