Rochdale News | News Headlines | Bleakholt Wildlife Sanctuary prepares for a ‘difficult’ few months

Date published: September 16, 2022

With the cost of living crisis and rising bills, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary is preparing for a tough few months – but animals will always come first.

Electricity bills at Edenfield Sanctuary, which is just outside the borough of Rochdale, have doubled to almost £100,000 a year and it’s something they have to manage when they care for dogs, cats, pigs, horses, donkeys and more at the 55-acre Sanctuary, all of which need special care.

They are also bracing for people to abandon their pets as the cost of living crisis hits at home, many of whom suffer from illnesses requiring ongoing medical treatment, another rising cost.

The sanctuary is home to 350 animals – around 80 dogs, 120 cats and a growing number of rabbits and small animals waiting to be rehomed while horses, donkeys, pigs, goats and chickens live their lives there.

Bleakholt launched in 1957 with Olive Lomas rescuing a donkey, Maudie, from the slaughterhouse; it became a charity in 1968 and has grown and developed ever since.

Now in their 65th year of existence, the staff are trying to ensure Bleakholt stays for at least 65 years as they go through a tough time.

They are trying to make their site as eco-friendly as possible, 8,500 trees will be planted in November to help the wildlife in the area and they are hoping to find grants or fundraising of around £270,000 so the sanctuary can run on renewable energy.

They already make their own hay to save money and have applied for grants and donations which have helped them expand the sanctuary over the past few years with new modern kennels, which opened in November 2018 and have heating on the floor, an £18,000 kitten. hall as well as a £75,000 redevelopment of the cattery which was officially opened earlier this year by Bleakholt chairman, Hits Radio star Gemma Atkinson.

Karen Weed with Rescue Pickle
Karen Weed with Rescue Pickle

Sanctuary manager Karen Weed said: ‘Over the past few years a lot of work has been done at Bleakholt to bring it up to date and ensure that all of our animals have the best possible facilities while they await their birth. home forever. or settle in Bleakholt.

“We do everything from recycling to upcycling to make sure Bleakholt is as environmentally friendly as possible and also to help keep costs down.

“Our electric and gas bill has doubled over the last few months which is frustrating as we would much rather spend our money helping more animals.

“We are also getting many more animals into our care who need medical treatment. A dog that recently arrived, through no fault of his own, is Buster, a six-year-old Akita who needs surgery on both legs. We asked for donations and got some of it as it will cost £7,000. He had his first operation and we won’t let him down.

“We have charity shops in Ramsbottom and Bury and have just opened a shop in Bacup, selling furniture as well as the usual charity items. It’s always a test when you open a new store because we rely on volunteers to help us, but luckily we have a good group of volunteers, although we are always looking for more.

“We also host fundraising events such as our Hallowe’en Spooky Family Fun Day on October 30, we still have our annual Christmas Shoebox Appeal which is well supported and host our Open Houses which are always well attended, but we understand that people are struggling too. Ways to help the sanctuary at no cost are to choose Bleakholt as your charity of choice through Amazon Smile and Pets at Home VIP Club.

Stables co-manager Sheila Linley admitted to noticing changes over the past few months. She and her team take care of 39 horses, donkeys and mules.

Sheila with Bracken
Sheila with Bracken

“There are more applications coming up because obviously looking after horses is expensive,” Sheila said. “If we have a place, we go through our list for the most needy.

“We make our own hay, but had to change where we get our shavings for bedding to somewhere cheaper.”

Sallie Conroy is Rehoming Supervisor for dogs. She said: “We don’t get as many requests for big dogs because obviously they are more expensive to feed.

“We are also taking in a lot more older dogs and that obviously comes with medical costs.

“We are getting more animals locked up and people are giving up the breeds they paid for. We recently brought in two dachshunds and a bulldog which is unusual.

Sarah Neild, Dog Welfare Supervisor, said: “There are all sorts of reasons people bring their dogs to Bleakholt. Some are destined to move where they can’t take them to rented accommodation, some dogs arrive pregnant, and some are due for medical bills.

“A dog, Bob, came from a dog sitter and his teeth were the worst I have ever seen. It is assumed that he was abandoned because of his teeth but we sorted them and they are beautiful and shiny now!

Kittens at Bleakholt Wildlife Sanctuary

Cat Section Supervisor Hayley Collins and her team look after approximately 120 cats.

“We’re seeing a lot more cats not being neutered because of the expense and that brings its own set of issues,” Hayley said.

“Kittens are surprisingly harder to adopt right now, people just aren’t adopting animals the way they used to be.”

Maintenance coordinator Dan Walmsley said his job has become more difficult with rising costs.

“All the materials went through the roof. We need materials to run the site, but it is now much more expensive to buy what we need.

Bleakholt has a few famous admirers, including singer Lisa Stansfield who recently said she comes to tickle pigs, actress Maxine Peake has attended open houses and former soap opera star Gemma is a big supporter in her role of president.

“Like everyone else, we need to watch what we spend,” Karen said. “However, animals always come first at Bleakholt.”

If you would like to support Bleakholt, please visit their website:

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