Real Stories: Barney the Spaniel

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Phoebe Marson, 72, is a woman who has adopted a quite few animals in her lifetime. I spoke to her to find out about her feelings towards adoption and what people should expect when adopting.

I started the interview by asking her what kind of animals she adopts and why.

“I’ve adopted dogs and cats. The last dog I adopted was Barney, he lived with me for five years before he died. He’d been dumped at a grooming place but previous to that I took in two sisters (dogs) because not many people will take in two dogs. I only take old dogs that people won’t have, everybody wants puppies. I get more pleasure out of the older dogs and they appreciate it (being adopted) so much.”

I then asked her what the procedure was to adopt the animals and whether or not they had to look at her house etc. to make sure she was able to provide a good home.

“You have to prove that you have a secure garden for them, that you’re not going to leave them for over four hours a day at a time. Any problems and you can call them at any time and you do pay for your animal. When you take them they’re all neutered and injected and any problems that the animal has had have been solved. You’re then responsible for them. They come and look around your house but because I had animals before Barney and I’d worked in the shelter, when I took the two sisters they didn’t come and look at my house, they knew I’d be looking after them.”

After speaking to Millstream Animal Shelter, I was curious as to whether Phoebe was told the past of the animals she adopted to encourage her to want to adopt them more.

“They told me about the past of Barney because where I’d taken the two sisters to be bathed and trimmed, a photograph of Barney was on the counter. I enquired because he was a spaniel and that’s my favourite type of dog and what happened was that the man (his owner) used to work away for three months at a time, and his wife used to just put him in kennels for three months at a time, so he virtually lived in kennels. So I took him and had five lovely years with him.”

I also asked whether she’s glad she adopted rather than bought.

“Yes. Up until a number of years ago I’ve always bought my dogs. I used to go for the same spaniels, I just love them. But, once I’d worked down at the kennels I couldn’t help them because I got too emotional so I used to collect money for them, especially around Christmas. I used to stand outside a shop I worked in with a friend and collect. The manager let us have a trolley full of food. I wish more people would adopt instead of buy.”

“Since then I’ve always taken a dog in from the kennels, I’ve never been disappointed. Some dogs live for one year, two years and it’s heartbreaking, that’s the one downfall. It’s when you take an old dog, obviously they’re not going to last as long as a puppy so you go through the trauma of them dying quicker than you would have if you had a puppy.”

“I try to make up for all of the sadness they’ve had in their life, I’m not very strict with them. They’re part of my family and I treat them like that.”

After speaking to Phoebe about adoption, the point that more people need to adopt rather than buy in order to help the animals that have faced animal cruelty has been confirmed. Giving them a good home means that they have a second chance at life, so I took to twitter to see how effective the #AdoptDontShop is.




Animal cruelty uncovered: Millstream Animal Shelter give us the truth about animal abuse and neglect


There are all sorts of animal cruelty stories in the media but we only see the half of it. The RSPCA investigated over 150,000 cases last year, but what about the rest of the charities?

I went down to Millstream Animal Shelter, a charity taking in mainly cats, and occasional ferrets and dogs. All of the animals taken in by them are neutered, and for those who cannot find a home they provide one within their shelter. They also offer advice and support to owners to enable them to keep their pets.

The Shelter is dedicated to improving the lives of animals in the local area but being financially independent means it is entirely reliant upon local support to help fund its work.

To find out what their work consists of I interviewed Michaela, a volunteer and trustee, about the reality of animal cruelty.

I started off by asking her what her role is at the animal shelter.

“There are a lot of responsibilities here which include manning the office, organising the rehoming and taking in of animals, making the decision of what we take in and generally running the place.”

Learning her motive behind volunteering at Millstream was important as it gave me a sense of the type of person she is.

” I’ve got so many reasons for being a volunteer. I think the main reasons are that I was just brought up with it, you know being an animal lover. I’m definitely a crazy cat lady so I love being around all of the cats, and helping out satisfies me. Taking the animals in and getting them rehomed gives me a sense of accomplishment because it means I’ve just improved the quality of life of that one animal, even if it is just one. I also think people get involved strangely because they come from an animal, and when they learn about a place from things like the paper or internet they feel like they need to get involved because they need to help put a stop to it.”

When it comes to helping animals that have suffered animal cruelty, people always forget about what happens once that animal has been taken out of a bad place. I asked what steps they have to take at the animal shelter to help improve the life of an animal they have taken in.

” The first step we have to take is to make sure they are checked up on at the vets to make sure that they are healthy, and if they’re not to make them better. We then get all of the animals neutered to ensure there will be less problems in the future, if any, and aim to get the animals rehomed which we’re really careful about when it comes to finding a new owner. If we can’t find a new home or think that an animal is unsuitable we make the shelter their home which means we look after them.”

One of the main reasons I took to visiting and asking questions at a shelter was because they see the harsh reality of animal abuse. To really find out what some animals go through I asked what the worse case Machaela has ever seen and her reply was heartbreaking.

“There’s so many cases I can’t just say one. There was a cat named Suki who was strung up by her hind legs to a tree and shot by a pellet gun. One of her legs was broken and it was only when she got x rayed that we discovered the pellets. One was sitting next to her spine.”

“There are lots of dumpings of cats outside here and catteries. Once a lady came in from Huddersfield who owned a cattery, and somebody had dumped a plastic box outside with holes in the top full of kittens. It was when there was torrential rain and there were six of them that were left there overnight. When the lady found them the following day, because it had rained so much, it had rained inside the box and there were two of the kittens left because the others had drowned. The lady who’d found them was so distraught that she brought them here and it was touch and go as to whether they would make it so we got them to the vet and they were freezing cold so we had to warm them up. They were only about 5 weeks old but fortunately they survived.”

“Sometimes people don’t mean to be cruel it’s just lack of thought. People put kittens in wheelie bins thinking that people will hear them and find them and usually if they’re lucky they’re found by the bin men. In fact a bin man did bring a kitten in. He was emptying the wheelie bins and he heard something crying so he opened the bin and there was a kitten there. They were just about to empty the bin into the crusher so that was like a minute from death.”

“People that float from properties and things like that sometimes tend to leave their cats behind. We had three cats that were shut in a property for three weeks, and we think the people who lived there must have thought that the landlord would be going to check the house or something once they’d gone but he had a lot of properties, so it was 3 weeks before he went there and one had died. One of them we didn’t find until a week after because it was hiding behind the cupboards and ended up having to drink the condensation off the windows, so that cat was there for four weeks.”


“Harriet, another cat got brought in and we had to arrange a vet appointment straight away because she was starved and tried to fill herself up which lead to her overeating and being sick because her stomach was so small. She was on a drip for four days and can’t be neutered for a while because she’s so small (three and a half kilos). She’s gaining weight though because when we brought her in she was one and a half kilos which is the size of a 14 week old kitten and she’s an adult. She looked like a skeleton. She’s recovering and she’s a friendly cat, and people like the sob stories so we expect her to get rehomed quickly when she’s better.”

“When people first meet you they come up to you and say they’d love your job but they don’t see the reality of this job at all. You have to bite your tongue a lot because saying what you really think could start something.”


After hearing such realities I went on to ask whether she thinks the law surrounding animal cruelty should be taken more seriously and she was very quick to answer yes. I was eager to find out what and why.

“Prison sentences should be longer because no matter what the very few are sentenced with they’re always let out earlier. You never hear of people being put away either and it makes you think if a person can be as cruel to people as they are to animals what are their intentions in life? There’s a collaboration between the NSPCC and RSPCA, so if the RSPCA go into a property because there’s trouble with animals and they see young children there they will let the NSPCC know, because if they’re cruel to the animals then certainly the children will be suffering as well. It makes you think that if the law for animal cruelty was taken more seriously, would it help with child abuse and so on?”

One of the questions I will always ask when it comes to animal cruelty is why do people do it? Michaela had some good answers for me.

” I think one of the main reasons is ignorance. Lots of people just view animals as commodities and we have people phone up here and say ‘what have you got in stock?’ or ‘what price do they go at?’ I mean it just tells you what type of pet owner they’re going to be. You can decide within a second of picking that phone up whether you’re going to rehome to someone because of the way they ask.”

“Even on Facebook people can put a couple of words and sometimes I’ll even just not reply to them, you know like when they call them it and the first thing they want to know is how much they are.”

“This time of year now is the worst time because, well I’m saying that but to be honest with you the six week holidays have been a bad time this year because it seems that these people with kids have got kittens in the six week holidays and then when the six weeks are up they’re four months old and on the streets because they were basically just toys for the kids while they’re at home for the summer.”


“Now they phone and ask ‘how close to christmas do you home kittens?’ Well that straight away is alarm bells to me, I mean why? Why would you want a kitten at Christmas? Even in a reasonable home there’s so much going on. Theres visitors, large families, people might be standing at open doors so the cat could get out, plus it’s overwhelming for the animal because there’s so much noise.”

“You get all these notices that the RSPCA put out ‘a dog is for life not just for christmas’ and Cats Protection League with a ‘cat is for life’ and people ignore it.”

My final question was a hard one because there is no real way to stop animal cruelty altogether but I asked what she thinks would help stop it.

“When it’s ignorance there’s education, but it’s like how do you go out and actually educate people. I think getting animals neutered is a good way to stop things like hoarding and animals getting sick but some people think that they don’t need to be neutered. Certain communities don’t even realise that animals can be neutered. So there’s education and neutering, but then obviously you’ve got people that are just damn right cruel.”

After speaking to Michaela and other volunteers at Millstream Animal Shelter I think it’s safe to say that I learnt about the even harsher reality than I already thought of animal cruelty. My thoughts after visiting and talking about the animals was that I always hear about the abuse but didn’t know the extent of it.

Millstream Animal Shelter are doing their best to get animals away from animal cruelty and to give them a new life, but this can only be done with the help from the public. If you’d like to help improve the lives of these animals donate at their JustGiving page, or buy something for them off their Amazon wishlist.

RSPCA’s facts and figures on animal cruelty

On average every 30 seconds someone in England and Wales dials 0300 1234 999 – the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line – for help. In 2016 they received 1,153,744 phone calls.

RSPCA has approximately 340 inspectors, 50 animal welfare officers (AWOs) and 88 animal collection officers (ACOs) working to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to animals in England and Wales.

RSPCA inspectors now investigate more than 149,000 complaints of cruelty and neglect every year.

In 2007, the Animal Welfare Act became law in England, shortly after it was implemented in Wales. Described as the single most important piece of animal welfare legislation for nearly 100 years, the Act places a legal obligation on owners and keepers of animals to care for them properly.

They have a network of 162 RSPCA branches around England and Wales, and work with many animal welfare organisations abroad through their international team.

Their animal hospitals and five clinics treat pets in need of preventative medicine or welfare treatments belonging to members of the public who can’t afford private veterinary fees. (There are also 39 clinics and 3 mobile clinics run by thier branches.)

RSPCA’s 17 regional animal centres across England and Wales help people adopt pets and rehome more animals than any other organisation, with an extra 42 animal centres run by their branches.

They have four specialist RSPCA wildlife centres in England.

The RSPCA also works to improve the lives of millions of farm, laboratory and wild animals.

* More than 900 million farm animals are reared every year in the UK.
* Around 4 million scientific procedures are carried out using animals in research establishments in the UK each year.

During 2016 the RSPCA…

  • rescued and collected 129,602 animals
  • found new homes for 46,949 animals
  • microchipped, neutered and treated 256,979 animals
  • investigated 149,604 cruelty complaints
  • secured 1,477 convictions by private prosecution to protect animals against those who break the laws

The UK pet population in 2017* is estimated at:

  • 8.5 million dogs
  • 8.0 million cats

Watch the video below to see a cat being rescued by the RSPCA.



Animal welfare legislation: protecting pets

Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is the principal animal welfare legislation.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, powers exist for secondary legislation and codes of practice to be made to promote the welfare of animals. The government is considering a number of specific issues including updating or bringing in new regulations or codes. Until such new provisions are made, existing laws will continue to apply.

Codes of practice

There are codes of practice for the welfare of dogs, cats, horses (including other equidae) and privately kept non-human primates. They provide owners and keepers with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their animals, as required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They can also be used in courts as evidence in cases brought before them relating to poor welfare. The codes apply to England only (Wales and Scotland have their own equivalent codes), and are in force from 6 April 2010.

Find out about the codes of practice on:

The Act was the first review of pet law in 94 years. It replaced the Protection of Animals Act, first passed in 1911 and designed to prevent outright cruelty to animals. The Animal Welfare Act combined more than 20 pieces of legislation into one.

It introduced tougher penalties for neglect and cruelty which could be anything from a fine, to community service, and now to up to five years in prison and also enforced a duty of care onto pet owners to provide for their animals’ basic needs, such as adequate food and water, veterinary treatment and an appropriate environment in which to live. Previously the ‘duty of care’ had only existed for farm animals.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was part of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which brought together and updated all the main legislation concerning domestic animals since the 1911 Protection of Animals Act.

The RSPCA is the leading animal welfare charity in England and Wales.  Since their creation in 1824 they have worked to protect animals through using the law and where necessary called for legislative change to provide better protection. They engage with governments, institutions and public bodies and advise on key animal welfare issues or concerns. In particular they encourage the development of new policy and laws that improve the welfare of animals.

They have been involved in the passing of most animal welfare law in England and Wales since they were set up. Here is just a short list of some of the more recent pieces of legislation they have been involved in: