Work at centre is no dog’s life

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Citizen reporter Emma Mason went to the RSPCA centre at Block Fen in Wimblington, to see what goes on at the regional rehoming centre.

The sun was just coming up as I made my way to Block Fen, which is in the middle of nowhere – just the right place for lots of animals who can be very noisy.

Mornings are very busy, with all the animals needing to be cleaned out after being shut in all night, and the kennels were my first stop.

Animal care assistant Julie Ward took me under her wing and we set about cleaning. Every pen had to be “poo picked”, cleared of any pieces of blanket that may have been shredded, then disinfected and scrubbed, before being hosed down and wiped dry.

While doing this, you have to contend with the dogs that have been let out for a run around. As they are confined to their pens most of the time, the dogs go mad when they are let out, and you know when you’ve been hit by several stones of happy Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Waitress Lorna Henderson is one of the volunteers who help out at Block Fen. She has been working in the kennels since June and loves it.

She said: “I would really like to work here. I think all the staff started out as volunteers. It’s practically the only way to get in.”

Dolly P, an eight-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier who had been over-bred, was one of the dogs I made friends with. She was very friendly and was eager to give lots of kisses – something I wasn’t so keen on.

My next stop at Block Fen was the small animals. Serena Garner works in that section and takes care of more than 70 animals on a daily basis.

“The rabbits are the worst to clean out,” she said. “They are so messy.”

In addition to taking care of the rabbits, Serena looks after guinea pigs, gerbils, chinchillas, rats and birds, all of which have to be cleaned out, fed and medicated. She has to be extremely organised to make sure nobody gets missed.

I also got to meet a rabbit who was subject of the centre’s “New Year story”.

She was left in a box at a vet surgery, along with three babies who were a month old. Within days of arriving at Block Fen, she proceeded to have five more babies.

Serena said rabbits are fertile immediately after giving birth, so she had obviously not been separated from the male and got pregnant straight away.

The older rabbits, who are weaned, were moved to a different hutch and the new babies are doing well.

The cattery is the third main section of Block Fen and a peaceful haven compared to the noise of the kennels.

Supervisor Laura Prince showed me around, even taking me to isolation where I met a cat who had been suffering from cat flu, a highly contagious illness.

I got a chance to feed some of the animals and met Otto, a very friendly boy who I could have happily taken home with me.

Then it was off to reception to help Laura book in four cats who had come from a boarding kennel near Peterborough.

If Block Fen is full, the private kennel takes care of any animals that have been picked up by the RSPCA inspectors.

The majority of animals at Block Fen come from the inspectors, rather than the general public. Laura explained the RSPCA prioritise looking after animals in need, which means they often can’t accept stray or unwanted animals.

The four new cats – Bagpuss, Charlie, Bobby and Lucky, who was renamed Mac – came with very little information except names and a rough age.

They were all weighed, wormed, given a precautionary flea treatment and briefly checked over before being taken to the cattery.

I really enjoyed the few hours I got to spend at Block Fen and it really gave me an appreciation of the work that goes into running it on a day-to-day basis.

It’s clear how much of a help the volunteers are. Everywhere I went in the centre, there was someone preparing food or washing bedding or walking the dogs.

The animals look well-cared for and it’s obvious everyone who works there cares a great deal about them. The only problem is you want to take them all home with you!