Directly Helping More Dogs and Cats

Through innovation, service expansion and continuous improvement.

A place that
never stops

Throughout the year Battersea’s centres continued to be here for dogs and cats in need. Our three centres received 1,606 dogs and 1,508 cats in 2020. Covid-19 restrictions led to a reduction in the animals we were able to take in, but we also received fewer enquiries from owners seeking to give up their dogs and cats. A comprehensive survey of animal partners and Local Authority dog wardens confirmed that this was a nationwide issue, with a marked reduction in animals being relinquished by their owners.

Our animals come
from many places AND WE’RE PROUD OF OUR NON-SELECTIVE INTAKE POLICY TO TAKE IN ANY BREED OF DOG OR CAT, AT ANY AGE, THAT NEEDS OUR HELP. Born on site, Animal partners, local authorities, members of the public and other rescue centres.

With fewer animals arriving at our centres, we sought out opportunities to increase Battersea’s direct care for animals by giving support to other charities. We are now supporting the RSPCA with veterinary care for cats and dogs rescued by their inspectorate in London. We also helped Blue Cross following a large backlog of surgical cases post-lockdown at all of their London hospitals. Battersea’s clinic team was in a position to make use of theatre capacity to treat Blue Cross surgical cases on an outpatient basis, and the charity brought 19 dogs to our London centre for veterinary treatment in the two weeks before London went into Tier 4 lockdown.

Battersea also continued its important work in partnership with StreetVet, a charity that delivers vital veterinary care to animals belonging to homeless people. In 2020, we provided temporary boarding at our London centre for 12 dogs being helped by StreetVet when their owners sadly faced difficulties looking after them.

Building For
The Future

We completed a series of facility development projects, ensuring that Battersea is fit for the future and can provide the best care for dogs and cats with more complex medical or behavioural needs.

At our London centre, major development works were completed in 2020, including the opening of a new reception entrance area and state-of-the-art Hydrotherapy suite. At our Old Windsor centre, construction of The Duchess of Cornwall Kennels was completed and officially opened by our Royal Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in December. The facility includes a dedicated maternity area and puppy paddock; just one way in which we are ‘futureproo fing’ for any uptake in numbers of expectant mothers of puppies being abandoned post-pandemic. At our Brands Hatch centre, we made improvements to our kennels and cattery, as well as creating new grooming and working dog training spaces, ensuring we can provide the very best care for animals that need to be relinquished by their owners.

IN FOCUS - Making a Splash

When 18-month-old Border Collie, Charley, came into Battersea, our clinic team discovered that he had a dislocated left hip. It was a longstanding injury, making it impossible to simply replace the joint, so our expert vets removed the ball part of the ‘ball and socket’ hip joint so that it no longer rubbed on the side of his pelvis, the weight then being taken by the muscles surrounding the hip.

It was important to return Charley to his feet as soon as possible after the surgery and to carry out gentle physio in order to maintain as full a range of joint movement as possible, and to build up muscles that had wasted due to the length of time he had carried his injury. Luckily for Charley, during his stay at Battersea our brand-new Hydrotherapy centre was completed and our team of hydrotherapists were able to start treating dogs that would benefit from the facility.

With a 6x3m pool and underwater treadmill, the state-of-the-art facility — made possible thanks to the support of our donors — is a welcome addition to our London centre. Designed to help provide our dogs with additional exercise opportunities to meet their medical, emotional and physical needs, the Hydrotherapy centre is not only ideal for dogs such as Charley, who require post-operative care and physiotherapy, but for dogs who may simply benefit from the exercise and enrichment opportunities it provides. When restrictions allow, we will fulfil our promise to be here for every dog by opening the facility up to members of the public whose dogs would benefit from hydrotherapy.

Finding New Families

We quickly adapted our rehoming approach to help us respond to a surge in demand while still safely adhering to Government guidelines. This helped us to rehome 2,538 animals last year, (1,121 dogs and 1,417 cats), across all three Battersea centres.

Our Communities programme, where volunteers take animals into their homes and seek to rehome them through participation in community events and localised marketing activity, was impacted by Covid-19, with many key activities cancelled, and fewer animals coming into our care. Thirty-one animals — 26 dogs and five cats — were rehomed through our Guildford community in Surrey, and a new community set up in Ashford, Kent. A series of partnerships with local organisations (such as Age UK and Anchor Hanover in Guildford) were established, and a full programme of community activity and promotion is ready to launch once restrictions are eased.

Unlike other rescue organisations, Battersea will never turn away a dog or cat based on breed, age, condition, or any other factor. Despite the dedication and care provided to every animal that comes into our care, some are either medically too unwell, too dangerous to be rehomed, or there are legal reasons which result in us having to put the animal to sleep. We never take this decision lightly and instead work continually to keep these numbers to an absolute minimum. In 2020, we successfully reunited or rehomed 80% of dogs and 93% of cats.

IN FOCUS - A Match Made Online

In response to unprecedented rehoming demand, our online rehoming application system was rapidly scaled-up and we introduced virtual rehoming when we could no longer welcome customers on site, using video calls and footage to introduce animals to potential owners remotely. We also began rehoming by delivery, with staff using our Battersea vehicles to take dogs and cats to customer’s homes, and in the case of our dogs, carrying out rehoming introductions in secure gardens and outdoor spaces.

Shadow, a six-year-old Siberian Husky, became one of the first Battersea dogs to be rehomed through virtual rehoming. After registering their interest in adopting a dog via our website, John and Lois Waters from Leicester had a series of calls, including video calls where they ‘met’ Shadow online. John says, “This was new for everyone, so we went in open-minded. We had never rehomed a rescue dog before and this was our first time going through the process. The application went through quickly and was followed up with several discussions on Zoom. We saw Shadow and knew immediately that we wanted to rehome her. Battersea made it possible due to the virtual option — it was the flexibility and innovative approach that allowed for this to happen.”

Pet Owners

Our charity is not just committed to helping dogs and cats, but also supporting pet owners through any means.

In a rapid response to the challenges of the pandemic, Battersea’s website, content, email, and social media strategy were quickly adapted to elevate advice content. This allowed us to continue supporting many thousands of new, less experienced pet owners through a potentially difficult time.

A new website section, ‘Make yourself at home’ was created featuring advice for pet owners needing to self-isolate, training tips, recipes and crafts. This received more visitors and engagement than any other Battersea website section and a new pet advice email series, ‘The Battersea Way’, gained 18,000 subscribers.

IN FOCUS - Training The Battersea Way

At the end of 2020 we launched online training courses to support a new generation of puppy owners, many of whom were missing out on the normal opportunities to socialise their new pet with other humans and dogs as a consequence of lockdown. Fiftyseven dogs were indirectly helped through Battersea’s virtual puppy training classes after they launched in September, and in our survey of attendees, 86% (19) of respondents felt the classes were easy or very easy to participate in online.

One such participant was Shane Hollyhead from Kent, who attended one of our online training courses with wife Amy and their puppy, Digby. Shane says, “We thought long and hard about rehoming a puppy during lockdown, taking into account what life was like at that point and how Government guidelines would impact our ability to properly socialise a new dog. The content and advice provided by the Battersea training course helped massively with Digby’s general obedience and has boosted our confidence in being able to raise a well-rounded dog going forward.”

With restrictions on the numbers of animals we could take into our centres, we also set up a dedicated dog and cat behaviour advice line to help owners respond to any problem behaviours they encountered at home. Our free helpline received 1,020 enquiries from dog owners and 81% of these cases were positively resolved. The Canine Behaviour team provided behavioural advice and support to an average of 85 members of the public each month, a 40% increase on 2019.

81% of callers

40% increase pet owners seeking advice and support from our canine behaviour team throughout the year