There will be approximately 5,000 animals in RSPCA care this Christmas and a dedicated team will give up their Christmas Day to ensure that all of their needs are met.
The RSPCA has an incredible network of 7,000 volunteers who help walk dogs, cuddle cats, clean out enclosures and maintain the charity’s animal and wildlife centres, as well as helping with digital volunteering and other jobs.
RSPCA volunteering manager Brian Reeves said: “Our volunteers are some of the most inspiring and caring people and we feel incredibly lucky to have them as part of the RSPCA family. They give up their time throughout the year including Christmas Day when they, along with our staff, make sure that the animals in our care over the festive period receive lots of extra TLC.
“They deliver special Christmas meals, stockings and presents to all of our animals, spend extra time walking them, playing or just giving them a quiet cuddle, and ensure that they feel love this Christmas. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for everything they do.”
Here three volunteers share their stories to inspire others to consider giving up their time to help animals this International Volunteers Day (5 December):
‘I love being able to help make a difference in animals’ lives’
Andy Gamlin (53) from Ely is a branch trustee and committee member at RSPCA Cambridge & District where he’s jointly responsible for dog fostering and rehoming, as well as a volunteer at RSPCA Block Fen Animal Centre.
Despite working in the heating and plumbing industry, he started as a volunteer at the centre, in March, Cambridgeshire, after moving to the area. He said: “I was living in rented accommodation and unable to have a dog of my own but I wanted to help rescue dogs in any way I could.”
He spent seven years as a dog walker and then became a home visitor, checking families’ homes before they could adopt a dog.
“I’ve hardly missed a week of helping at the centre ever since and I’ve never missed a fundraising event,” he said. “I’ve helped every Christmas Day since I joined, starting at 8am and staying until all of the animals’ needs have been cared for. I love helping at Christmas because I want to help all of the dogs get their regular walks and exercise as well as helping the staff get home to their families as soon as possible.
“Volunteering with the RSPCA and being involved with the fantastic work the charity does is something I love and being able to help make a difference in animals’ lives is priceless and so rewarding, both for the animals in our care and the volunteers.
“The RSPCA is a fantastic organisation to be a part of; you make so many friends (both animal and human!) and can really make a difference while gaining new skills and confidence.”
‘The dogs don’t understand it’s a special day; they’re just delighted to see a friendly face’
Retired Julie Robinson (64), from Potters Bar, has been a volunteer dog walker at RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, in Hertfordshire, for 12 years; and has volunteered every Christmas Day since joining.
She said: “Walking and loving the variety of dogs who are looking for forever homes is a very fulfilling experience. I know it helps the dogs but it’s also been a lifesaver for me throughout lockdown.
“I volunteer every Christmas Day. It’s the best start to the day and there is usually a good turnout on Christmas morning with many volunteers; we have a great time walking the dogs and giving them Christmas cuddles.
“Since many volunteers will then spend the rest of the day with family and friends I usually return in the afternoon with a few other volunteers for more short walks. By this time it is getting dark so at 5pm when I head home I feel very happy that the dogs have had walks and a good fuss on Christmas Day. They also enjoy a special dinner, treats and a toy each.
“The dogs don’t understand it’s a special day. They are just delighted to see a friendly face and have some time out in the fields.”
‘I find it very rewarding giving rather than receiving’
Construction sales rep Sarah Smith (49) from Chertsey is a volunteer at RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre, in Surrey, where she helps in the cattery. She started helping at the centre due to her love of cats.
She said: “I love animals, especially cats and have three Sphynx cats of my own. It’s great when you dedicate your time to a specific cat, from when they first come in and are often terrified but when you’re able to gain their trust it’s the best feeling. It is so rewarding.
“It breaks my heart to hear the stories of how some of the cats ended up here but it’s fantastic when they’re ready to go off to their new home.
“For the past three years I have worked every Christmas morning at Millbrook in the cattery; it’s a great atmosphere.
“I love coming in first thing to help feed the cats and clean the pens. We hang out all of the cats’ Christmas stockings, hand out their pressies and spend time playing with them. A lovely man brings in catnip mice every year and it’s lovely to hand those out to the cats; they go crazy for them!
“I find it very rewarding giving rather than receiving and it’s lovely to spend time with the Millbrook team; they’re a friendly bunch. This, for me, is what Christmas is all about. I don’t have a big family, it’s just my son and my mum who lives miles away, so spending time at the cattery in the morning really makes my day.”
To Join the Christmas Rescue and help our rescuers be there for the animals in need this winter, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/rescuexmas.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the RSPCA can visit www.rspca.org.uk/volunteer to search for current volunteering vacancies and opportunities.