Coping With a Crisis
As the world changed in 2020, Battersea remained here to ensure that no animal was left behind.
In 1860, Battersea’s founder, Mary Tealby, made a promise to never turn away an animal in need. Now, 160 years later, generations of dedicated Battersea staff and volunteers have kept that promise for every dog and cat that has come through our gates.
Since we were founded, our charity has helped over 3.1 million dogs and cats and, to this day, we continue to help the most unfortunate and unwanted dogs and cats in society. We have overcome so many different challenges throughout our 160-year journey, and it is Battersea’s determination and resilience that has helped us continue through two world wars and now, a global pandemic, to be here for the dogs and cats that need us most.
The sudden and unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic forced Battersea to do something we had never expected to happen, and close our centres to the public for the first time in our history. This allowed us to prioritise the welfare of our staff and animals, and remain open for emergency cases and those animals and owners that needed us the most. Challenging and uncertain times lay ahead, but we remained united in our determination that the care of our animals would not be compromised by this worldwide crisis.
How We Responded
A rapid and agile crisis response was implemented at the first signs of the pandemic reaching UK shores. This included reducing the number of animals at our centres from a typical 350−400 animals to just 85 by the start of the first lockdown, thanks to an increased rehoming drive and the unwavering help of our network of foster carers. Over 160 of our animals went out on temporary foster with our staff and volunteer foster carers, who rallied to open their homes to animals that would benefit from being in a more familiar environment.
Our staff rose to the challenge of adapting to new ways of working almost overnight. Support teams that were required to switch to home working remained fiercely dedicated to the cause, and the reduced-capacity operations teams that remained at our centres demonstrated great resilience by coming onto site every day to ensure our animals continued to get the treatment, care, love, play and interaction they needed.
Our passionate and committed clinic staff continued to provide emergency care and support for animals in urgent need. After switching to emergency-only surgeries throughout the initial weeks of the pandemic, standard surgical operations resumed at our London and Old Windsor clinics in May 2020, the earliest of any team in the charity sector.
Battersea also took the lead in the development of sector-wide, Government-backed operational guidance, providing a framework for animal rescue and rehoming organisations to continue operating legally and safely during the pandemic. As the world responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, our supporters came through in their droves to help raise vital funds, pet owners looked to us for advice, and we used our voice to speak out for the sector, sharing our funds and expertise to help other rescue organisations across the UK and overseas.
During a time when public demand for pets was rising exponentially, Battersea worked hard to champion responsible pet buying and ownership to prevent animals being poorly bred, cruelly treated, given up, or abandoned. We supported pet owners, continued to change perceptions around rescue, and collaborated with the Government and other charities to further animal welfare, recognising the greater outcomes we could achieve for animals beyond our gates.