'When the dog comes round and starts to trust you it is really rewarding'

They are the "unsung heroes" who care for  neglected and  abused cats and dogs at the RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield and district branch's animal centre.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 4:45 am
Elaine Murthick -  holding Marshall, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Looking on are Sally Balmforth and Sue Sykes.

Photo: James Hardisty
Elaine Murthick - holding Marshall, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Looking on are Sally Balmforth and Sue Sykes. Photo: James Hardisty

Some of the 100 volunteers who devote their free time helping out at the rehabilitation and rehoming centre in East Ardsley have spoken of the emotional highs and lows of their work.

Retired engineer Andy Holmes 65, of Beeston, started volunteering around seven years ago after his dog fell ill and had to be put to sleep.

Dad of two Andy said he was upset and his daughter suggested volunteering for the RSPCA after she saw an advertisement from the charity looking for people to help.

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Sue Sykes, who works in the cattery at the centre, holds a kitten called George.

Andy, who was an army trooper in the Royal Dragoon Guards for six years in his twenties, is a volunteer dog walker and also helps out with cleaning at the centre.

Andy said the centre cares for strays and dogs which have been taken from owners after being abused and starved.

The centre also takes in dogs given up by owners who can no longer cope looking after them.

Andy said dogs are also cared for after being seized from illegal breeders.

Andy Holmes with Peach the dog

"They are scared to death sometimes if they have been taken from an abusive home where they have been kept in a cage 24 hours a day," said Andy.

"They cower in the corner and they won't look at you for a few days. It takes them a while to trust people again.

"When the dog comes round and starts to trust you it is really rewarding."

Andy added: "Some have had a bad start in life so it is great to see them flourish and get their confidence back."

Elaine Murthick, walking a Shar Pei called Nala. Photo: James Hardisty

Andy said some dogs find new homes quickly, while others have to stay longer at the centre.

"We had some sausage dog puppies and they flew out once they were fit," he said. "There were people clamouring for them."

Andy said some larger dogs and Staffordshire bull terriers take longer to rehome.

Retired office worker Sue Sykes, 71, has four cats at her home in Tingley and has been helping care for cats at the centre for nine years.

Sue Sykes, who works in the cattery, checking on the condition of Teddy and Tiger. Photo: James Hardisty

"Some of the cats come in very frightened, some poorly and some as strays - so each cat is different and needs to be treated differently," said Sue.

"If they have been neglected and starved they come into the centre very bedraggled and thin, sometimes they have fleas all over them.

"We take care of them and we feed them.

"When they get a new home you are a bit sad because you have got to know them and they have got to know you.

"They go to their new homes and they are totally different cats to what they were when they came in.

"You feel that you have done something worthwhile. It is very satisfying and is a lovely feeling.

Elaine Murthick, and (right) Sue Sykes, and (centre) Sally Balmforth. Photo:James Hardisty

"They are lucky cats if they get to the Leeds and Wakefield branch because we look after them very well."

Retired primary school head teacher Elaine Murthick, 66, of Castleford, has been volunteering for the Leeds and Wakefield Branch of the RSPCA for around 10 years.

She started out as an animal care volunteer with the dogs and moved on to helping with administration for the volunteer programme.

Elaine, who also helps out at fundraising events, said: "It is often difficult to hear some of the past stories of the animals in our care.

"But I feel privileged to be part of an organisation that cares for them in the way they do, supports and nurtures them and gives them the confidence to finally be themselves and find their forever home.

"Over the years I have watched as staff have worked tirelessly with, rehabilitated and rehomed some very difficult animals, who have gone on to lead wonderful lives.

"Their dedication is inspiring. I am very proud to have a place in this very special branch."

The RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield and District branch works closely with the national RSPCA, but they are two separate charities.

All fundraising activity money and donations the branch receives is spent on caring for animals at the centre in East Ardsley, which was established in 2015 and rehomes around 300 animals per year.

The branch has three charity shops - in Wakefield, Roundhay & Rothwell.

Sally Balmforth, head of fundraising and communications for the RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield and District branch, said: "Volunteers are a fundamental part of our branch.

"Whether they are dog walking, cat socialising, working in a charity shop or helping out at a fundraising event, we wouldn’t be able to function properly without them.

"They are the unsung heroes of the RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield & District branch.

"We currently have around 100 volunteers helping and supporting us, and on behalf of us all at the branch I would like to thank them for all the hours they continue to dedicate to help the animals at our centre."

For more information, go to www.rspcaleedsandwakefield.org.uk/