How do cats come to be in your care?
Cats come to us for a variety of reasons – some are strays, others get left behind when their owners move home, some owners are unable to keep them due to a change in circumstances i.e. moving house, a new addition to the family, allergies etc. The list of reasons sadly is endless. Occasionally they are just abandoned at the rescue so we never find out the reason they are no longer wanted.
Once you've decided to take a cat in, what happens next?
Once we have admitted a cat it is placed in isolation until it has been health checked by one of our vets. It will also be wormed and deflea’d. Unless we have proof that it is already fully vaccinated the cat will remain in isolation until it has received a full course of vaccinations and has been neutered (if not already). It will also be microchipped. All this takes roughly 45 days – the cat is then ready to be adopted. If a cat is admitted that is already fully vaccinated and neutered, it is normally ready for adoption once it has had a health check from our vet, and been wormed and deflea’d.
What do you do if you get reports of a stray cat?
Firstly, it is hard to determine what a stray cat is. A cat in your garden may simply be passing through, or if you’ve not seen it before it may be new to the area. Even if you suspect a cat is stray, please do not feed it. The cat will then view you as a ‘feeder’ and will be inclined to hang around. If you have any concerns about the condition of a cat that you consider to be stray please try and take it to a vet to see if it is microchipped. Cats that are genuine strays may be added to our waiting list and we will help as soon as we are able.
Can I come and meet the cats?
Yes. All of the cats featured on our website are on site and waiting to meet their potential new owner/s!
Where are your cats housed?
All of our cats available for adoption are on site. Many are housed in our outdoor runs and enclosures, and the old/young/and those on medication are housed inside the main cattery building.
How many cats do you have on site?
Both shelters generally have between 65-80 cats on site. Not all of these though may be ready or available for viewing/adoption.
How can you help me adopt the right cat for me?
If you are looking to adopt a cat you must come down and meet the cats first. Once a cat has been chosen, or a cat chooses you, Cattery Staff will then talk to you and get as much information as possible regarding your home situation, location, other pets, family members and also discuss with you the personality of the cat to ensure it is the right cat for you.
Can I have a home check before I chose a cat?
No. It is best if you come and choose a cat first to ensure it is suitable for you. As our home checkers are mostly volunteers it is only once we know you are committed that we can organise for a home check to be carried out.
You charge an adoption fee. Is this fee how much you have to spend on each cat before it is rehomed?
The adoption fee is rarely reflective of the cost to care for the animals, this will vary between cats. For young healthy cats our initial outlay is for flea and worming treatment, a course of vaccinations, neutering and micro-chipping. However, a lot a cats we take in have other issues such as flea allergies, cat flu, injuries, thyroid issues (in older cats), so the costs for their initial (and sometimes ongoing) treatment can be high.
I live a long way from the rescue centre, will you still rehome to me?
Provided we are able to arrange a home check in your area then yes. This will depend on whether our volunteer home checkers are willing to travel and if not then whether we can locate a home checker local to you who has been trained to follow similar policies to Freshfields. It is a policy of the charity that every potential adopter undergo a home check before we release an animal into their care.
I work full time, can I still adopt a cat?
Yes! Cats are very independent creatures and also sleep a lot! We just ask that there is a cat flap available so they can come and go as they please. In the absence of a cat flap, there should be a shed or garage they can have access to. This will ensure if the weather turns bad, or the cat feels threatened, from whatever source, they will have a place of safety to retreat to.
However, for young kittens we do need to be sure that there is a neighbour or family member who can visit for the first few months. This is because kittens need to be fed three meals a day initially, so a lunchtime feed is essential.
When are you more likely to have kittens at the rescue? Is it a certain time of year?
Kitten season has traditionally been between March and August, but we find ourselves with kittens throughout the year. There are usually more available late Spring/early Summer though.
What happens if I have problems with the cat I adopt? Can I return him/her?
Yes you can, but please remember that Cattery Staff are always available to give as much help and advice as possible to try and prevent this from happening.
Why do you neuter, vaccinate and microchip all of your cats?
Apart from prevention of pregnancies, neutering both male and female cats has major health and behavioural benefits. Vaccinations help prevent quite common illnesses in cats such as cat flu, and Calicivirus; both of which can have a long term and very detrimental effect on your cat’s health. All adult cats leaving the rescue are microchipped to ensure that if they are found straying they can hopefully be reunited with their owners. We remain a second contact on the registration, so the cats are always guaranteed a safe place with us until we can hopefully/eventually reunite them with their adopters.
Can you board my cat while I am holiday/ill?
Unfortunately we cannot. We have very limited space and staff to provide this service. We can however give you numbers for local catteries which have been recommended to us. NB. Choice of cattery is at your own discretion and whilst we may pass on a recommendation we accept no liability should you be dissatisfied with the service you receive.
What do you do to ensure your cats are happy/enrich their lives?
We try to provide a homely environment for all of our cats on site. We provide heated units, along with toys, boxes, scratch posts, and have regular volunteers who come in and spend time grooming, playing with and giving treats to all the cats in our care. On a daily basis Cattery Staff also try and give as many hugs and cuddles out as possible!
Do you think cats should wear collars or are they dangerous?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. If your cat is microchipped then in theory there is no real reason to have a collar with contact details on, because the cat will always be able to be traced via its microchip. However, microchips are not infallible and occasionally they do move or fail, in the unlikely event that this were to happen then a collar and tag acts as back up. If you wish your cat to wear a collar for other reasons, i.e. a collar with a bell to try and prevent it from killing birds etc, then we strongly recommend a quick release collar to prevent it being caught on tree branches etc.
Can you offer me help and advice on integrating my new cat with my existing cat?
Cattery Staff will give as much help and advice as necessary to help you integrate a new cat into a house with an existing cat – even if it hasn't been adopted from us. Why not give us a call?
How can volunteers help your cats?
We have many volunteers who come in early in the morning to help clean and feed our cats on site. As we have low staffing levels we could not manage without them. We also have other volunteers who come in to groom and spend time with the cats, often bringing them tasty treats!
Do you have cats in foster homes?
Our main need for fosterer’s is during kitten season when we need a safe and calm environment for expectant and nursing mums. We do however also need foster homes for old or ill cats who are not coping well with rescue life.
If I live on a busy main road will you let me adopt a cat?
Our policy is not to re-home cats – suitable for being outdoor cats - to a home on a busy main road. However, we sometimes have cats that are more suited to being an ‘indoor cat’. Please speak to Cattery Staff about your situation and we will advise on what is the best thing to do.
Why do some cats have to live indoors?
There are a number of reasons why certain cats need to be ‘indoor only’. These may include deafness, blindness, because they are FIV positive and sometimes simply just down to their personality. Some cats are very nervous and can be easily spooked, so for their own safety an indoor life is best for them.
What is FIV and do you rehome cats with this condition?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) depletes the number of white blood cells meaning the cat is less able to fight off infection. It is transmitted from cat to cat (not to humans or other animals), mainly through biting. It is most likely to be found in un-neutered Toms who spread this disease through fighting. We do re-home FIV cats but insist that unless you have a cat proof garden the cat must be an indoor only cat to prevent it from coming into contact with other cats, which may increase the chance of the infection being passed on.
What is your waiting list and why do you need to operate it?
We operate waiting lists for the simple reason that both shelters are always full to capacity. There are only so many that we can physically fit in whilst continuing to provide a decent standard of care. The waiting list allows those people who need to rehome but who are not in an immediately desperate situation to be considered should space become available.
Unfortunately in Liverpool our waiting list is currently closed due to the high number of cats (over 200) that are on it. As we so often have to deal with immediate emergencies it can be very difficult to admit from the waiting list and it is unfair to get peoples hopes up when we aren’t realistically able to help.
Can I bring my cat to the rescue to see how it mixes with the cats in the rescue?
No. Being in a rescue environment is stressful for any cat – even those in our care. Bringing your own cat here to meet a potential friend will just be stressful for your cat, and also not give a true indication of how they would normally deal with and react to a new friend.
What is a feral cat?
Feral cats are not, despite a popular misconception, a specific breed of cat. They unfortunately are cats who have been born outside of a home environment (usually to a long term stray), and therefore never had human contact. Unfortunately, if un-neutered they will then breed and so the chain continues. Feral cats are very defensive, and when confronted/cornered they can become aggressive towards humans. They tend to live in colonies with other feral cats being their family.
How do you help feral cats? Do you keep them on site and do you rehome them?
We have a neutering scheme for feral cats. The cats are trapped, neutered and where possible and practical, returned to the area where they were originally living. We do not have any on site as we feel it is cruel to keep them caged here, and the chance of them being adopted is very low. Occasionally if and area is so bad that we feel to return a feral cat or cats there once neutered would be seriously detrimental to their wellbeing we will request homes for small groups in places such as riding stables or small holdings. The adopter will need to feed the cats and keep an eye out to ensure they remain healthy but otherwise allow them to live their lives undisturbed.
How long can cats live for?
Domestic cats (not pedigree cats) can live for up to 20 years or more, therefore we do not class 7/8 year old cats as being old. Cats are a long term commitment and this should be taken into account when considering adoption.
How do dogs get to be in your care?
Our dogs come from all kinds of situations. People usually phone us about a dog needing help, but they also sometimes arrive at our door. Other rescues can also ask for help, and we often hear about stray dogs. We operate a ‘waiting list’ so we can take details of dogs that need help; this is because we often can’t help dogs immediately, due to lack of kennel space. The most common reasons for dogs being given up are work commitments, young children in the home, divorce, relationship breakdowns, death of an owner, properties where pets aren’t allowed and illness.
Why don’t you let the public view your dogs in their kennels?
It can be very distressing for a dog to see strangers in their ‘home’ environment. If a stranger stands and stares at them in their kennel they will become excited, fearful, or protective, or sometimes feel all of these emotions, and they will react in a very negative way. The stranger will therefore not see a true reflection of the dog’s personality and possibly all of the dogs in the kennel block will have been upset without good reason.
How many kennels do you have?
In Liverpool we have 3 kennel blocks. There are 18 kennels in total, each one has an inside bedroom area and an outside run. The smallest block also has two rooms, which house dogs. Aside from our kennels we have a further 8 areas where we keep dogs – these include the staffroom, kitchen, and office! In Wales we only have permanent residents on site (not that we give up on any of our dogs when it comes to finding them new homes) and our rehoming take place with the help of foster families.
How many dogs do you have on site?
We usually have around 34 dogs on site. Many years ago we had a lot more dogs, but we now find that the majority of dogs we bring in (and currently have on site) do not get along with other dogs. This means that in many cases we have only one dog in each kennel, even when there is room for two or three.
What happens if I have problems with the dog I adopt, can I return him?
Yes, we will always take back one of our own dogs – even if it is 10 years after adoption. We are very thorough when we re-home our dogs and do everything we can to make sure we have found the right match, so that the dog won’t be returned to us. We will always offer advice and behavioural support as a way of trying to resolve any problems, but we understand that sometimes, due to circumstances beyond everyone’s control, a dog can no longer be cared for and will need to be returned. We will do our best to take the dog as quickly as possible, but would ask for your understanding and patience, as we will have to find a space for that dog and this can take time.
Why do you neuter, vaccinate, and microchip all your dogs?
Neutering is extremely important because there are huge numbers of unwanted dogs being destroyed every year. There are not enough homes available for the dogs that already exist, yet still people breed – both by accident and purposely. Neutering a dog makes it impossible to breed from it. Neutering also prevents many cancers and other serious medical conditions. Vaccinations ensure your dog is protected from harmful diseases. Microchipping is the easiest and fasted way of making sure you are reunited with your dog if it ever goes missing. It will be a legal requirement that all dogs are microchipped in March 2016.
Is it ok to keep dogs in kennels for such a long time?
Some of our dogs do end up staying with us for a long time. This isn’t intentional; we just have to wait for the right home to come along and, as some of our dogs have behavioural issues, it can take a bit longer. We work with our dogs constantly to help address any issues; this can also take time as a bond of trust needs to be developed first. Our dogs are very happy and have an exceptionally high quality of care, they have different exercise areas and their own dog walkers. Their kennels have heating, radios playing, curtains up for cosiness, and where possible there are sofas and carpet. If a dog is in a room rather than a kennel it is kitted out to look like a living room. All this helps make the dogs time with us more comfortable and enjoyable and the setting more reflective of traditional home life.
Why do you run the Bull Breed Awareness project?
‘Bull breed’ is a general term for dogs like Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Mastiffs, Pit Bulls, English Bull Terriers, and American Bulldogs. This type of dog has been bred out of all proportion and is now the single most common type of dog to need rehoming. Over half our dogs are bull breeds, and the majority of the dogs on our waiting list are also bull breeds. Our Bull Breed Welfare initiative helps raise awareness about just how many of these dogs are being destroyed each week, how many need homes, and what the implications are when it comes to breeding. We promote responsible ownership, which includes arranging free or very low cost neutering.
Can you board my dog while I am on holiday/ill?
Unfortunately we do not have the facilities to board dogs temporarily. Our kennel space is limited and we are constantly full. We also always have a list of dogs waiting to come in. There are many commercial boarding kennels in our area, and we can advise on personal dog sitters.
Why does it sometimes take so long to be able to adopt a dog?
We need to be as sure as possible that we have matched the right person to the right dog. This often means asking you to spend more time with a dog than just one visit; this allows the dog to bond with you, gain confidence and trust you. If a dog has behavioural issues we need to be sure that you are fully aware of them and can deal with them. We believe that your commitment to a dog should be for the rest of their life; so spending a few weeks getting to know them first makes sense!
What do you do to make sure your dogs are happy/enrich their lives?
Our dogs receive the very best care we can possibly give them. We make their kennels/rooms as comfortable and homely as possible, and make sure they are always clean and dry. We always think about things from the dogs point of view – how can we reduce noise, disturbances, when can we give them a break, ways of helping them pass the time, how to make their exercise areas more stimulating etc. We have many different exercise areas, and the dogs use different areas twice a day on most days. In Liverpool we have a large exercise field; thanks to a generous supporter this is filled with purpose built doggy activities to stimulate all their senses. We are also lucky enough to have a large volunteer base of helpers and walkers. Every one of our dogs has a dedicated walker who takes them out locally or in the car, for a restful time away from the stress of kennel life. Some even go out on day trips, home visits, overnight stays and holidays.
In Wales there are fewer dog walkers as we are in a rural area, luckily dogs in foster are experiencing life as in a real home so we can be confident that they receive the best of care.
Why do you ‘advertise’ some dogs on your website that are still in their own homes?
As we are so restricted by space we are always looking for other ways to help dogs in need. If someone comes to us about a dog, or one is added to our waiting list, that we think sounds very re-homable then we will advertise it on our website. We will meet and assess the dog first and once their details are on our website the standard procedure that we would use to rehome any of our own dogs applies. It is because we don’t know the dog well that we only try and rehome ‘problem free’ dogs this way ie; dogs that are good with children, other dogs, have no history of biting etc. Occasionally we will advertise dogs that don’t fit this category because their situation is desperate.
I have children under five years old, why can’t I adopt a dog?
We feel strongly that it would irresponsible of us to rehome a rescue dog where there are children aged 5 years or under. Rescue dogs have often had an unstable past, and sometimes we don’t know anything about their history. Children aged 5 or under cannot be relied upon to remember 100% of the time what they should and shouldn’t do to dogs, and how they should or shouldn’t behave when dogs are around. We have heard many horror stories over time about dogs being put to sleep as a result of a child’s behaviour. We also hear about children being knocked over, scratched, or even bitten by dogs who have been pushed to their limits. A large proportion of the dogs on our waiting list are being given up because they do not get on with or cannot be trusted with young children even though it’s often through no fault of their own.
You charge adoption fees, do these reflect how much you have had to spend on each dog before it is rehomed?
No! We spend much more than this on every dog that comes in to our care. Every dog is neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, de-fleaed and wormed, this alone costs much more than the adoption fee. Our other expenses include food, heating, ongoing veterinary fees, medication costs, and the wages of the staff employed to look after them. This donation fee goes only part way towards covering our expenses.
What is the most common breed of dog you have?
In Liverpool Staffordshire Bull Terriers and other bull breeds such as American Bulldogs are the most common breed of dog around in general. About half the dogs we have on site and over half the dogs on our waiting list are this type. This particular breed really struggles with the noisy, stressful kennel environment, which unfortunately makes them harder to rehome. They crave human contact, and without it become extremely frustrated.
In Wales there are also bull breeds but far more numerous are the Border Collies. They are generally unwanted ex farm dogs, farm dogs that have proven no good for working and those inbred or bred to excess for sale as pets.
What do you do if you get a stray dog?
If a stray dog is brought to us we firstly scan it to see if it’s microchipped. If it is we contact the owner and ask them to come and collect the dog. If the details on the chip are wrong, or the dog is not chipped then we are legally required to inform the dog warden most local to where the dog was found. They will then collect the dog and keep it for 7 days. If the owner has not been found or come forward in that time, then we are able to take the dog back into our care (assuming we have space) and rehome it. Very occasionally we are able to keep the stray at the rescue but we are then obliged to keep the dog for 28 day before we can rehome it. The finder of the stray will complete a ‘stray dog admittance’ form so we have a record of where the dog was found, and if it is returned to the owner they will complete a ‘return to owner’ form.
How can you help me adopt the right dog for me?
Firstly we will talk to you about your current situation – we need to find out about your working hours, other pets, history with dogs, family members, plans for the future etc. Once we have this information we will be able to tell you if we have any dogs available that would suit your situation. We have to consider the dogs needs at all times – there is no point rehoming a puppy to a couple who are out at work all day! There will be times when unfortunately there isn’t a suitable dog on site. We would then encourage you to keep in touch and look out for new admittances on our website.
I live a long way from your rescue centre, will you still rehome to me?
Yes, we re-home dogs all over the country. You need to remember that our standard procedures would still apply – you would need to come and visit the dog, along with the members of your family living with you and any other dogs you have. We would then arrange to do a home visit and, assuming everything is ok, you would then come back to the rescue to do the final adoption and collect your dog. If you were interested in a dog with behavioural issues you would be required to make more journeys in order to get to know the dog properly. The amount of visits would depend on the individual dogs needs. This would be discussed with you at length.
Can I visit your rescue to look around?
Yes, you can visit the rescue but remember we are very busy every day, so unless you are hoping to adopt it is always best to phone ahead and make an appointment. You are welcome to look around our cattery, and see our profile books, but the kennels area is closed to the public.
I work full time, can I still adopt a dog?
Unfortunately most dogs will not cope with being left for 8-9 hours a day. They will become bored, lonely, and frustrated, and most dogs will need to go to the toilet during that time. Leaving them alone for so long often leads to behavioural problems too. If you do work, think about getting a dog walker, asking a neighbour, friend or family member to come and sit with the dog and give him the chance to go to the toilet. If you work locally maybe you can come home for lunch. Please talk to us – all dogs and situations are different!
Once you’ve decided to take a dog in to the shelter, what happens next?
The first thing that happens is a ‘disclaimer’ form is filled out. This legal document means the dog officially becomes our ‘property’. The form is completed with as much information as possible about the dog. This will help when it comes to rehoming the dog in the future. A collar and tag with Freshfields details, and a reference number unique to that dog, are put on the dog. At the next vet visit the dog is given a thorough health check; he is weighed, wormed, defleaed, and microchipped if not already done. If necessary an appointment is made for neutering. Once the dog is settled in we take pictures and write a descriptive piece about him, and what kind of home he needs. This is put on our website and a profile made for our profile books. Then we just look after him until the right home comes forward!
Can you offer me advice on introducing my new dog to my existing dog?
Yes. If you came to us looking to adopt, we would find out about your dogs personality first, and would only suggest dogs that we feel would suit your dog. We would ask you to bring your dog to the rescue to meet our dog, and wouldn’t go ahead with the adoption until we were happy that both dogs were comfortable with each other. Depending on your dog’s personality we would suggest meeting on or off site. These introductions will help when it comes to taking your dog’s home. When you do take your new dog home, we recommend that you let both dogs meet outside, or take them for a short walk and then take them in to the house together.
If I adopt a dog with a long term medical condition can you help me with the vets bills?
In some cases we will be able to help you with future medical costs. If a dog leaves us with a condition such as Cushings syndrome for instance and we feel that the cost of treating this condition is preventing the dog getting a home, then we will help. Our vet will complete a medical form which will outline exactly which expenses we are able cover and the level of contribution expected from the adopter. Please remember that we survive solely on donations, so for us to commit to ongoing medical expenses is quite a responsibility.
Why do some dogs stay with you for such a long time?
This happens for two reasons – 1) We often take in dogs that other rescues wouldn’t; ones that have behavioural issues, have bitten, do not like other dogs, and are not popular breeds or pedigrees. 2) We have a non-destruction policy, and would only put a dog to sleep if its quality of life were severely impaired or if it presented a genuine danger to the public or to our staff. We don’t believe that you can give a dog a fixed period of time to find a home, or put it to sleep if it doesn’t find one. We firmly believe that there is a home out there for every one of our dogs; it might just take time to find it. While they are waiting for their forever homes each of our dogs lead the best life it is possible to lead in a kennel environment.
Why should I insure my dog?
Insuring your dog is the easiest and best way of knowing that you will be able to cover veterinary costs if your dog is ever involved in an accident, or becomes ill. These costs can be extremely high; without insurance some owners find themselves unable to pay and their dog may suffer as a result, or may even have to be put to sleep. When adopted, our dogs leave with 4 weeks free insurance cover. You will be contacted after that to see if you want to continue with the policy. Please think seriously about this. If you decide against insurance it may be worth considering putting money aside every month in a separate account for your dog to cover any large future vet bills.
Is there anything I need to do or bring on the final adoption day?
You only need to bring a lead and your donation fee on the day, but there are many things you need to think about before you get to the rescue. Please make sure you already have everything you need for your dog – the correct food, bed, toys, bowls etc. Also plan your journey home from the rescue and the following few days, so they remain as calm and relaxed as possible. This will help your dog settle more quickly.
Small Animals FAQ's
How do animals get to be in your care?
Animals come into our care for a variety of reasons. The most common amongst them being that they are stray, unwanted, the children have got bored of the animal, the family is moving house, or some other change of circumstances. Sometimes they are just abandoned in boxes.
What types of animals do you admit?
We admit rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, chinchillas and small aviary birds.
How many small animals do you have on site?
Generally we have between 70 – 100 small animals at any one time.
What is the most common animal brought to you and why?
The most common animals brought to us are rabbits. Rabbits are often brought in because they have escaped from their homes and then been found straying by a member of the public. They are quite often brought to us because the children have become bored, or gone off to college or university and the adults do not want to continue with their care. Rabbits do need a lot of care, but they can also be very independent and quite often don’t like being handled. This is one reason that children become bored of them.
Once you have decided to take an animal in, what happens next?
Once an animal has been admitted it is then assessed by staff. It will be health checked by our vets at the next vet visit, and then vaccinated, neutered and microchipped where applicable. Once this process is complete and the animal fit and healthy they will be put up for rehoming via our website.
Do you neuter, vaccinate and microchip all of your small animals?
Yes every animal that it is safe to neuter, vaccinate and microchip has the procedure carried out before adoption. We generally neuter (castrate or spay), both male and female rabbits and ferrets, male guinea pigs and male chinchillas. Rabbits and ferrets are also vaccinated and microchipped.
I have children under the age of 5 years. Can I still adopt a small animal from you?
Yes, as long as the children are supervised at all times when with the animal. Parents with children should only take on an animal if they want it too. If the child should lose interest then the adult should be the one to continue to care for the animal – after all; animals are not toys to be discarded and it’s the ‘adults’ not the children that officially adopted the animal in the first place!!
What happens if I have a problem with the animal I adopted, can I return it?
Yes. We always take our own animals back, but we will always offer advice to you and hope that we can help you keep the animal in your care.
Can you look after my small animal while I’m on holiday?
Unfortunately we do not have the space to do this. We can however give you numbers of places that do provide this service for you to chose from at your own discretion.
I work full time, can I still adopt a small animal?
Yes. Although small animals do need lots of care they are also very independent. They are often kept in pairs or groups so they will have company even when you are out.
Is it unfair to let a rabbit live alone? How do I introduce a new rabbit to my existing one?
Most rabbits like the company of another rabbit as they are not naturally solitary animals. Rabbits can be difficult to mix so it is advisable to do your research before attempting to mix your rabbit with a new one. Alternatively contact to a rescue centre such as ours, and we will bond the rabbits here on site.
Why isn’t a standard rabbit hutch suitable for a rabbit?
A hutch is not enough. Rabbits need space to exercise as they are very active animals. Rabbits have long legs so they can run, jump, and play. When rabbits are locked up in a hutch for long periods of time they can become bored, frustrated, stressed, grumpy, overweight and unhealthy. We ask that you have a hutch or shed with a large fully secure run attached to it, so that the rabbits have permanent access to a proper exercise area.
Can rabbits live with guinea pigs?
Some people have rabbits and guinea pigs living together, but we do not recommend it. Some rabbits can be quite aggressive towards guinea pigs and they can also carry a bacteria that may make guinea pigs quite poorly. Remember - rabbits are a completely different species that would never naturally mix with guinea pigs. We feel that they should only be rehomed with their own kind.
I live in a flat, can I still have rabbits?
Yes. Rabbits adapt quite well to living inside, and many people have house rabbits. If you choose to have house rabbits it is important that you block off all wires to prevent the rabbits from chewing them. You also need to be prepared that some rabbits will chew anything that they can get hold of! Rabbits are clean and are easy to litter train, but there will be a few accidents until they have completely settled in to their new environment. Most rabbits find walking on slippery surfaces difficult and can injure their backs if they slip, so carpets or rugs will help them to get around if you have laminate or lino flooring. To feed house rabbits you can get good quality hay, dried grasses and herbal treats to replace grass, or you can grow trays of grass or turf for the rabbits to eat and dig in.
Are small animals expensive to keep?
Yes they can be! The most expensive lay out is for caging. Cages can be quite expensive, especially the bigger they get. Obviously it is better to get the biggest cage you can find for your animal, they can therefore have more space to exercise, and a better quality of life in general. Once the caging has been bought you then you'll need to buy bowls, water bottles, toys, bedding and feed stuff. Small animals do need cleaning out frequently so this is an ongoing expense.
Do they require vet care and can this be costly?
All small animals will require vet care at some time in their lives and yes vet care can be expensive. Most small animals don't need vaccinations but rabbits do require annual vaccinations against Myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. When they receive this vaccination the vet will give them a full health check and check their weight, teeth, eyes, ears claws, coat etc. All our rabbits go out with 4 weeks free pet plan insurance when they are adopted and we recommend that you continue with this policy or a similar one to help with any unexpected vet bills in the future.
How do horses and ponies end up in your care?
Nearly all of our horses and ponies have come to us as a result of their owners losing the land they were renting. This of course, means they can no longer keep their animals. Sometimes owners are not financially able to continue caring for their animals, so they have to give them up. We have occasionally taken in retired riding horses. Sadly when a horse cannot be ridden any more it is often ‘gotten rid of’ and simply replaced with a younger one.
How many horse and ponies do you have on site?
The number of horses and ponies we have on site at any one time can vary, but it is usually around 35-40.
Where are the horse and ponies housed, how much space do they have?
We have several fields covering 19 acres in total. We have field shelters for those who wish to use them and stables for those horses that need to come in at night.
What does it mean when you say you have ‘loaned out’ horses?
Quite often people approach us asking if they can have one or more of our ponies or horses, this is sometimes because they want a companion for their own horse, or sometimes it’s because they have spare land. We send them out ‘on loan’ so that legally they remain Freshfields property and if for any reason in the future they cannot stay in the place or with the people they have been ‘loaned’ to, they will come back to us. This way we can be sure they will remain safe and not be sold on or slaughtered.
Why are some of your horses and ponies available for rehoming but others stay with you permanently?
The decision to ‘loan out’ or not always depends on the condition and health of the horse/pony.
Do you neuter and microchip any of your horses and ponies?
We castrate every stallion and all horses and ponies have to be microchipped in order to obtain a passport. The passport is a legal requirement and without it they could not be transported around the country.
What do you do if you hear about an injured horse or pony?
There are times when members of the public contact us about a horse or pony they have seen because they are concerned about its welfare. We try to obtain as much information as possible and assess the situation. We may go and take a look for ourselves, or if the distance is not practical then we may have to refer them to the relevant authorities.
Can I visit the stables to look around?
Of course! All we ask is that you phone us first so we can arrange a convenient time, and make sure there is a member of staff available to show you around.
What are the costs involved in looking after a horse/pony?
It is difficult to say exactly how much it costs to look after a horse or pony in just one year, let alone in its lifetime. All horses and ponies need food and bedding. We use hard seed (made up of course mix, pony nuts, and sugar beet), straw, and hay. They need indoor and outdoor rugs, worming three times a year, and de lousing twice a year. They will need treatment from vets, dentists, and farriers. Males will need to be neutered. As with all animals, as they get older they will need supplements and extra medical care. In the summer costs can be lower, as there is grass to eat and no bedding is needed. It is important to remember that these costs are yearly, for up to 30/40 years!
Once you’ve decided to take a horse in, what happens next?
The owners firstly have to arrange the transport of the horse/pony to us. Ponies are kept separated for a few days and then wormed – we cannot worm them if they are agitated or nervous as this can cause stomach problems. The animals are assessed and we decide which group they are most suited to. This will depend upon their sex, personality, and age. Any colts will be gelded (neutered) as soon as possible. Most of the new admittances need the attention of a farrier and/or dentist so would be seen by our vet on their next site visit. If they were in need of help sooner we would call a vet out immediately.
Do some animals stay with you for a long time?
All the elderly horses and ponies with health issues stay with us for life.
How can volunteers help these animals?
Volunteers are always welcome! You can help with grooming and mucking out, and spend time keeping our more docile horses company.
Do all of your horses and ponies live in groups?
Yes, they do. They should always live in groups, as they are herd animals. We find that sometimes close bonds are formed between certain animals within the same group.
If a horse or pony is not sent out on loan, do you keep it for life?
What sort of age do horse and ponies live to? What is the oldest you have?
Horses can live up to their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The eldest horse we currently have on site is Callie – she will be 43 years old this year (2016) – but one horse, Romney, died at the grand age of 45 years. We have had ponies that have lived into their 40’s, which is very old in horsey terms. There is a Welsh pony featured in the Guinness Book of Records, which is still living at 54 years. This is exceptional though – it’s the equivalent to a person living into their hundreds.
How do you look after the horses and ponies in winter?
In the winter months our horses and ponies go out to the fields in the morning after their breakfast. They are brought in and stabled overnight, and always wear rugs. Some of the hardier native horses and ponies can stay out during the night, but they do have field shelters they are able to use should the weather become severe. These native ponies include Dartmoor pony Axel, Norwegian Fjord horse Thor, and some of our Welsh ponies who are also hardy enough to stay out. These will be rugged for the very severe weather.
Do you charge an adoption fee? How much is this and what does it cover?
In order to safeguard the animals’ future, we do not carry out official adoptions, we let the animal go out ‘on loan’ instead. This means that, should there be any problem in the future, the horse/pony will always come back to us. Our one off ‘on loan’ fee differs in every case - it will depend upon the animals age and health. Ponies are often loaned out for £100, horses £150-£200.
How do these animals come to be in your care?
The farm animals we take in at the Liverpool shelter come from a range of different backgrounds. The majority of the smaller animals such as ducks and chickens are unwanted pets. With the rise of the 'micro pig' it is becoming more common for us to take pigs in as unwanted pets too. The larger animals like the sheep and pigs generally come in from farm situations; it may be that someone has rescued them at the end of their farming life, or they have been raised by someone for meat but they then found they couldn't go through with it. We also take in a few hundred ex battery hens each year; these come directly from the farms.
What animals do you have?
We are currently home to pigs, sheep, hens, cockerels, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowl. We do however try to help any animal in need and have rescued animals such as peacocks and even cows in the past.
How many do you have on site?
Generally we have around 8 pigs and 7 or 8 sheep. The number of smaller animals goes up and down quite regularly as these are the ones re-homed more often. We normally look after about a dozen ducks, 6 geese, a couple of turkeys, and anywhere up to 150 hens and about 40 cockerels.
Where do you house the farm animals and how much space do they have?
Our farm covers approximately 40% of our 2.5 acre site. This is an ‘L’ shaped area to the back and side of the rescue. Within this area many of the animals are allowed to mix together, this isn’t so for our pigs though who would not get on as a large group, they are therefore kept as 3 separate pairs with two pigs living as individuals, although those two do have many ‘non pig’ farmyard friends.
Are any of them for rehoming or do they stay with you permanently?
In theory all of our farm animals are available for rehoming. However in reality most of the larger animals will stay with us for the remainder of their natural life, as homes only rarely come up for them. We have a regular in and out pattern of rehoming and admitting smaller farm animals.
Do you neuter, vaccinate, and microchip any of these animals?
Where possible and safe to do so these animals are all neutered. All male sheep and pigs are neutered, this of course means we can mix these animals without fear of them breeding. They are vaccinated/medicated as required but none are microchipped. By law sheep and pigs have to be ear tagged.
Is there an adoption fee?
We do ask for a donation when ever a farm animal leaves us; this will enable us to continue the work we do, and rescue more animals. We don't have a set adoption fee as the other units at the rescue do. It is very important to us that these animals go to good loving homes where they will be well cared for. We will discuss with the adopter an appropriate donation at each adoption.
Can I visit the farm to look around?
The farm section is closed to the public at all times other than our annual open day, or when someone is coming in to view an animal for adoption. We may however be able to arrange visits by appointment in certain circumstances.
What are the costs involved in looking after these animals?
The cost of looking after these types of animals can get particularly expensive. It costs us on average about £500 a month in basic feeds, plus another £50 in hay for the sheep. We are lucky to have vegetables donated to us from a local supermarket, without this our costs would be even higher. Farm animals require the same level of care as domestic pets therefore vet bills and medication can prove a huge expense also.
What is the average life span of a pig/sheep/duck/hen?
Pigs generally live to around 16 years, but this depends on their breed. Sheep live to about 12 years; chickens and other small birds can have a life expectancy of 6 years. Geese however have been known to live a good 20 years plus!
Once you’ve decided to take an animal in, what happens next?
We can only make the decision to bring an animal in when space permits, or when we know that another animal is about to be rehomed. The animals we admit are generally brought in to us, and then a disclaimer form is completed. This means the animal has been legally signed over to us. In the case of larger animals such as the pigs and sheep, we will most likely go and collect them ourselves. This is because there is additional paperwork to be completed and movement licenses need to be applied for by law. Each animal will spend a period of time in isolation before being introduced to the rest of the farm.
Do some animals stay with you for a long time?
Our animals will stay with us as long as they need to. When the right home comes along they will be adopted, but finding the right home can often take time. Occasionally an animal will need treatment before it is ready to be rehomed. There are some cases when animals never leave us, and spend the entirety of their natural life with us.
How can volunteers help these animals?
The main way people can help our farm animals is by sponsoring them. A number of our animals are cared for in this way. We do take on volunteers for the farm but it is hard, messy work and isn't for everyone!
Do these animals live in groups?
Yes. The majority of our farm animals live with each other, regardless of what type of animal they are. They are all rather easy going and mix well with any outsiders that may be introduced. There are a rare few that don't fit into this category and have to be housed separately, but this is quite unusual.
How do these animals needs change in winter?
The main difference for the farm animals in winter is that that extra feeds may have to be given to the sheep. This is because their grazing will have all but disappeared over the winter. Besides that there is a lot more cleaning to be done by the staff to ensure the ground is suitable for them to live on; if the sheep and pigs in particular are standing in too much damp and mud this can cause issues with their hooves. Extra bedding will be provided when necessary, but this is not normally needed. The animals keep their sleeping areas pretty clean – especially the pigs!
What kinds of illnesses and medical conditions do you have to deal with?
In general all of the animals can be affected by the same types of health issues that would affect any other domestic pet. Pigs and sheep can get foot rot if they are roaming around in wet mud for long periods of time, but this is easily avoided by periodically checking, cleaning and trimming their feet. All manner of worms can become an issue if left unchecked, but all of our farm animals are periodically wormed and treated for any kinds of parasite that may be present in the farm environment. The ducks and chickens general squabbling can be the cause of all manner of cuts and small abscesses, so sometimes it may be necessary to treat with antibiotics. These squabbles can also lead to sore or swollen eyes.
What do these animals eat; can they eat the same things?
Our chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys all generally eat the same things. They have open access to mixed corn and chicken mash. Sometimes the turkeys may be fed a different turkey pellet. In addition to this they will also get a mix of vegetables and bread, depending on what we have in stock at the time. Our pigs are fed a bowl of oats, bran, and pig nuts which is mixed into a porridge-like mixture with water (warm in the winter) each morning. They are also given vegetables a little later on in the day. In general our sheep will just graze the grass or eat hay, but they are also given vegetables in the morning, just a mixture of whatever we happen to have in stock.
Do you take in wildlife from the general public?
Yes. We take in a variety of wildlife, mainly birds and small mammals.
What types of wildlife do you admit?
We admit wildlife such as small garden birds (black birds, robins, starlings, etc.) doves, crows, magpies, pigeons, hedgehogs, gulls, waterfowl and small mammals like stoats, weasels, and moles etc.
Why are they brought in to you?
There are various reasons. Birds are usually brought in with injured wings or legs due to the fact they have flown into windows, or been hit by cars, or attacked by cats or sparrow hawks. They have sometimes been stuck down chimneys, and there are also orphaned birds. Hedgehogs are brought to us as they have been found out during the day, or are too small to hibernate. Some have fallen into ponds, have had their nests disturbed, been attacked by dogs, cut with strimmers, or caught in netting.
How many animals do you have in your unit?
The wildlife unit has between 70 – 150 animals at any one time. Winter is the quiet time of year for us but in the spring and summer months it is very busy with lots of baby birds and hedgehogs.
Can we look around the wildlife unit?
Sorry but we do not allow the public to look around this unit. They are wild animals after all; we have to keep their surroundings as quiet as possible and keep human contact to a minimum. This will prevent unnecessary stress, and imprinting which is when the animal that is being looked after forms a bond of trust with the person caring for it.
I’ve found a hedgehog out during the day, what should I do?
Hedgehogs are nocturnal so they should not be out during the day. If you find one out in the daytime, you should put it in a box with a towel and phone a rescue centre for advice. Secure the hedgehog before it wanders off because in most cases there is a reason for it being out during the day; usually because it's poorly.
What do you do with birds when you admit them?
Firstly we take details from the person who found it, the reason the animal has been brought in and where it was found. Then we check the bird for any obvious injuries which may need immediate veterinary treatment. If we can't see anything obvious we will observe the bird and check it’s progress. Once the bird has had any necessary treatment and/or is eating and feeding well, then it will go into a pre release aviary to check it is flying OK. It can then be released.
Can we adopt a hedgehog from you?
Most of our hedgehogs go back to the place they were found. Occasionally we will relocate hogs that can’t go back for safety reasons, but we tend to put them in hog friendly places. Sometimes we do get a hog that needs to go to a secure garden (if they are disabled in some way it means that they will not cope alone in the wild), but the garden does have to be a fully secure, walled, hog friendly garden.
How many animals and birds do you admit in a year?
We are only a small unit but we are busy! We admit approximately 500 animals and birds a year. We can admit as many as 40 animals a week, but this is during our busy time of year - the spring and summer.
Why is it busier in the spring and summer?
It is very busy in the spring and summer because we get lots of baby birds and animals. Some baby birds need feeding every 20 minutes from dawn until dusk, and their pens need cleaning many times. We also get lots of ducklings in; they are very cute but are very messy too, so they need cleaning out multiple times a day. Baby hedgehogs (hoglets) need feeding every 2 hours, even through the night when they are very young.
What do you do when an animal is brought in to you?
Firstly we get the details from the finder, where the animal was found, how it was found. We need this information for our records, as every animal has its own record card with a record card number. We then check the animal for any injuries that may need veterinary treatment. If nothing obvious is found then the animal is settled into the appropriate caging and monitored. Some animals may need vet treatment for injury or illness, some just need rest and recuperation. Once the animal has recovered and is feeding well it is then placed in a pre release pen and its progress monitored before it is released.
Are animals and birds with you for a long time?
This all depends on what is wrong with them. The shorter the time they spend with us the better as it is very stressful for a wild animal to be in captivity. We tend to have hedgehogs for the longest time; when they come in as babies in late autumn, we keep them over the winter ('overwinter' them), and then release them in the spring.
Do you release all your wildlife?
Yes, we do release all wildlife once recovered. Most wildlife goes back to where it was found, but occasionally we have to relocate the animals to a different place if the area of origin is not safe.
If I bring injured wildlife to you, will it be put to sleep?
When any animal or bird is brought in to us we always do our best to help it. Unfortunately the fact that the wild animal or bird has allowed you to pick it up and bring it to us is a clear sign that it is very poorly - you should not be able to handle a healthy wild animal. In some case by the time the animal is found and is brought to us, it is too late to be saved - no matter what help we can offer it. We do always give every animal a chance, but if the animal is suffering we do sometimes have to make the sad decision to end it’s suffering.
What should I do if I find an injured bird?
If you find an injured bird, pick it up and put it in a secure box, and then phone a rescue for advice.
What do I do if I find a young bird in the garden?
Many birds fledge but can’t actually fly properly for a few weeks. If the bird is alert and active, and parent birds are around then leave it alone (parents will not be around if you are near the fledgling so watch from a distance). If the bird is very quiet, not alert and easy to pick up, that’s when you need to help it. Put it in a box and call a rescue for advice.
What is the correct food for hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs can be fed on mealworm, cat or dog food, hedgehog biscuits, hedgehog muesli and cat biscuits. Hedgehogs should never be fed on bread or milk as this is harmful to their digestive system, and can make them very ill.
What is the correct food to feed to ducks in the park?
Most people feed ducks bread and although they do like it, it isn’t very good for them. Ducks should be fed on corn and or duck pellets. If they do get bread it is best to give them wholemeal bread as this has more nutrients in it than white bread.
What do you feed the birds that come in to you?
That depends on the type of bird it is. Some birds are seed eaters, some eat meat, some eat fish and some eat insects. We always have a variety of foods in stock so we are prepared for any type of bird that's admitted. If you do find a bird but cannot take it to a rescue for a day or so, find out what type of bird it is so you can make sure you feed it the correct food.
When did this unit open, and what made you start caring for foxes?
The unit officially opened in December 2013. The unit is run by our very own Fox Man who previously volunteered with the Fox Project, a fox rescue based in Kent, which was also a franchisee for the non-lethal fox control company Fox-A-Gon. Once the Fox Man started working at Freshfields it seemed the natural thing to make use of his knowledge and experience and start up a fox unit here, as there are very few rescues in the area that deal with foxes.
How do you hear about foxes that need help?
Most of the calls that come in are from followers on the Fox Man facebook page, but some hear about our project through other rescues and the RSPCA.
What is most commonly wrong with them?
Nine times out of ten the foxes that come in are suffering from sarcoptic mange, a mite that burrows into the skin of the fox, causing immense itching which results in skin irritation, infections, fur loss, and even death if not treated soon enough. Death is commonly a result of dehydration as the mange mites spread all over the body. In extreme cases a fox suffering from mange can have absolutely no fur, although this doesn't mean it is too late for treatment. In past cases we have dealt with foxes with other injuries such as broken legs/jaws, and one case in which a fox was caught in a snare.
Do you always release foxes after treatment?
Unless a fox is too tame to be released back into the wild (in which case we would seek a suitable sanctuary for them) all foxes that are treated are taken back to wherever they originally came from and released.
How do you treat these animals; foxes are wild animals aren’t they?
Medicine is given in food where possible, to avoid physical contact with the foxes. If it's necessary to inject a fox with medication a towel is placed over their head, this normally makes them stay still. Only in rare circumstances is a fox sedated when being checked over by a vet, in order to check for breaks/fractures or if an X-Ray is required. When foxes are in the unit they are only feed/cleaned twice a day to reduce human contact with them.
Do you ever admit orphaned cubs?
We have had many fox cubs come through our doors. If a cub comes in alone and we have no other cubs in to mix it with, we will contact other rescues across the country to see if they do. We need to ensure the cub remains wild and doesn’t imprint upon its human carer (imprinting is when the animal that is being fostered forms a bond/trust with the person who is caring for it. If this was to be the case with the fox cubs, once released they may associate all humans as being friendly, which unfortunately is not the case and could ultimately result in them being put in danger). Cubs are very sociable so mixing them with others prevents them from becoming lonely, and play with other cubs is also important as it teaches them vital techniques that will help them survive in the wild.
What happens if you can’t release a fox back to where it was collected?
We always release a fox back to where it has come from, as they are territorial animals. To release one elsewhere runs the risk of putting a fox in to another fox’s territory, which would result in a territorial war. Also releasing a fox in an unfamiliar territory could cause a fox to struggle to find food and survive. When a fox is removed from its territory it will not be long before another fox moves in so even if the area is dangerous or if the fox is an unwelcome resident, relocating the animal is not a solution.
Foxes are pests, will you collect and put one to sleep if I ask you to?
Foxes are not considered vermin by DEFRA (Department for Environmental and Rural Affairs), despite what some people claim. We would not put a fox to sleep if requested, as we believe that would not only be cruel, but pointless. Removing one fox from a territory simply leaves the territory open to other foxes from the surrounding territories to fight over it. This could result in a worse problem for the caller than coexisting with the original fox. The last thing people want is foxes fighting over whose territory their back garden is!
Do you neuter or microchip foxes?
There is no need to neuter foxes as they control their own population by forming territories - the size of which will be dependent on food availability. A lot of food means a smaller territory and therefore the potential for there to be more foxes living in smaller sized territories. In any case, foxes are an important part of the ecosystem as they help to keep populations of smaller animals like mice, rabbits and rats, who are not self-regulating, in check. We never microchip foxes as in order to utilise the information on a chip you would need to capture the fox again, or recover the body if it dies. In most cases its unlikely we will ever encounter a fox we have previously caught so a microchip would be of no value.
Can I come and see the foxes?
We don't allow members of the public to come and see the foxes simply because they are wild animals who are very nervous around humans. While we are treating them they must have as little contact with humans as possible. This is why we restrict feeding and cleaning to just twice a day.
Why do we see more foxes around than we used to?
As we are destroying more and more of their natural habitats to build houses, it is only natural that we see more wildlife moving back into the areas they once inhabited. What used to be areas of forest rich in wildlife are now housing estates. Luckily, foxes are thrive in urban areas having adapted well to the change.
How do you collect a fox/release a fox?
In most cases we use a cage trap, which is left in someone's garden so they can check it regularly. If a trap cannot be checked every hour we ask that it is ‘unset’ , until a time that it can again be checked every hour. Once trapped we put the fox into a carry cage, and they are then transferred into the unit at Freshfields. We then use the same type of carry cage to release them back home.
Are they dangerous to work with?
The only time a fox will attack is when cornered and fearful for its life. Doing fox rescue does mean that you sometimes need to corner the animals in order to provide treatment, but any bites are minor and serve as more of a warning. Fox staff have been bitten but the fox has always just let go straight away and tried to make a run for it, or retreated to the back of the cage. Even vets agree that feral cats are more ferocious than foxes.
Do you have more foxes on site at certain times of the year?
Spring time is when cubs start coming in. Other than that the calls we get about foxes can vary from week to week. As the days get longer and weather warmer, more people tend to go into their gardens and notice foxes, so there is a potential for more calls to come in around Spring/Summer, although this year (2015) we have had a lot of calls in Autumn and Winter.
Does fox hunting help to keep fox numbers down?
On the contrary, people associated with fox hunts have been known to encourage foxes by using artificial earths, as well as leaving food out for the foxes in areas they know are going to be hunted. There are also cases where fox cubs are found in sheds near hunt kennels. Think about it: no foxes, means no fox hunt. People who hunt have no interest in keeping fox numbers down at all. From a scientific point of view, studies undertaken during the Foot and Mouth crisis show that there was no significant increase in the fox population when no fox hunts were carried out. When you consider that 80% of foxes are killed by being run over by vehicles, the number killed by hunts is really a drop in the ocean by comparison and by no means a form of fox control.
Should I feed foxes?
There is no such thing as a starving fox. They are quite resourceful and are intelligent enough to plan for when food is scarce by burying their food for the times when there is none. This is why, in most cases, if you throw a large piece of food out for a fox it will run off with it rather than eat it in front of you. If you do decide to feed foxes make sure you don't do it by hand, you should leave food out of doors so they don't associate it with people. Also only give small amounts so as not to make them dependent on you - if they have a decent food supply from hand outs its likely they won't travel as far to find food, thus reducing their territory size. If there comes a time when you cannot feed the fox, it may need to travel further out to find food and it could find it has lost it’s territory to another fox.