Animals left waiting for new homes as coronavirus shuts Battersea shelters

Around 100 animals face an indefinite stay at Battersea Cats And Dogs Home after coronavirus forced the shelter to close its doors to the public.

Staff across the home's three sites in London, Berkshire and Kent launched a huge effort to find foster homes for around 130 animals in the run-up to the coronavirus lockdown.

But, with rehoming suspended, that left 100 animals in kennels and cattery pens waiting until the lockdown is lifted before they will be able to leave.

Rob Young, Battersea's head of centre operations, told the PA news agency: "They're receiving the same, if not better, care and attention than they normally would do.

"We have as few staff on site as we possibly can but we do have enough to make sure their needs are met.

"All the dogs are taken out at least twice a day, the cats are well looked after and given lots of cuddles."

Jet, a dog at Battersea Cats And Dogs Home
Jet, a dog at Battersea Cats And Dogs Home

Generally, the average length of time cats and dogs spend in one of Battersea's shelters is 25 and 30 days respectively, but now some animals face a significantly longer period on site depending on the length of the lockdown.

With not enough foster homes available among volunteers and staff, behavioural experts and vets were consulted to determine which of the centres' animals would cope best with an extended period at a shelter.

Only staff involved in the direct care of the animals are currently allowed on site, and they are working hard to make sure the animals are well cared for – especially as taking dogs for off-site walks has become more difficult.

"We're certainly able to use our paddocks and play areas that we have on site at the centres," Mr Young said.

Rob Young of Battersea Cats And Dogs Home with a kitten
Rob Young of Battersea Cats And Dogs Home with a kitten

"We're using brain games for them as well, so keeping them entertained using lots of different ways that you can actually find on our website as well."

The move to shut the shelter doors is thought to be unprecedented.

"I believe it may be the first time in our history we've closed to the public," Mr Young said.

Intake has also been suspended – except for emergency cases – so when the shelters are finally able to open again, staff could face a larger-than-average number of animals arriving.

Bailey, a dog at Battersea Cats And Dogs Home
Bailey, a dog at Battersea Cats And Dogs Home

In the meantime, with many charities suffering a hit in funding, Battersea continues to rely on public donations.

"As soon as we open our doors, we will be taking in lots of animals," Mr Young said.

"We normally average about eight dogs and six cats that come into us every day so we'll be keen to find them loving new homes as quickly as possible.

"But for now we just ask that if people do want to support Battersea, just to remind people that we don't receive any Government funding so donations are very, very welcome."