21st June 2016
We had a great time on Saturday at Birmingham Wildlife Festival. We got to meet some amazing new people, raised some money and had a chat with the top man from Born Free, Will Travers OBE, who was very interested in our work and my upcoming PhD project.
The day was slightly marred however by a fellow stallholder informing us of an odd rumour that they had heard about us from a visitor to their pitch. Supposedly we have been acquiring all of our rescue animals by buying them on classifieds websites. This made me feel very ambivalent; angry that the person had not come directly to me (a mere 15 or so feet away) and asked me about this issue and amused at the ridiculousness of the idea!
Firstly if anyone has a problem with any of our policies we want them to come directly to us so that we can elaborate and assuage their fears. We operate on a basis of complete transparency and have nothing to hide here.
Secondly, I can assure everyone that we by no means need to “buy in” our animals! More often than not we are forced to refer incoming animals elsewhere because we are full to bursting. Since opening our doors in April 2013 we have rescued a total of 401 animals covering reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and small exotic mammals.
There is an aspect of our work however that I think may be leading to this confusion. On a very regular bases we are sent classified adverts by concerned supporters asking (often begging) us to intervene. There can be a number of reasons why the person feels the need to report an advert to someone that they think can help but this always boils down to them fearing for the creature’s welfare. We have been shocked by the contents of these ads.
Emaciated, disabled or diseased animals all up for sale supposedly as healthy.
Species with incredibly advanced care needs for sale at “pocket money” prices to the first person who comes along.
Sadly many supporters think that we can directly intervene and seize the animal but this just is not true. We are just regular citizens and do not have the powers of an RSPCA officer or the police. All of our admissions rely on the owner signing their pet over to us (by filling in one of our rehoming forms) just the same as any other legitimate rescue service. This means that all we can do when adverts are reported to us is reach out to the seller and offer our help.
On the majority of occasions we are ignored, a very small proportion give us terrible written or verbal abuse and the remainder are extremely grateful at our offer of help and practically jump at the chance to sign their animal over. In extreme cases the adverts are forwarded on to the RSPCA.
We never pay, trade or barter to get a rescue animal into our care. Whilst this may sound harsh (and potentially mean that some animals in desperate need never reach us) we cannot, in essence, reward owners for handing over their animals or indeed endorse cruelty and neglect by doing so. It is also a completely un-financially viable practice. Can you imagine how quickly a rescue centre would go bust if they paid for every incoming animal? People would be queuing up at the local cat’s home with armfuls of kittens and pound signs in their eyes if they knew they would get paid for handing animals in! How unethical and morally wrong would such a working practise be?! It would do nothing but fuel the very problem that we are trying to combat by proliferating a market for unwanted animals. Grace’s Rest wants no part in such ways of working.
If you’d like any more proof, ask our accountant. She’d be more than happy to tell everyone that there have are no animal purchases in our accounts.
I hope that I have managed to clear up a few things and explain the way in which we work a little better. If anyone wants to know more about the way we operate or about our ethical policies I am more than happy to explain them further. We want everyone to have confidence in our operation and campaign work; customer service is at the heart of everything we do.
Much love, Clare x
Supported by Ladbrook Insurance, a specialist animal charity insurance provider.
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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)
Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations. She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations. Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.
Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna. She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions. Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own. She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!