‘A rabbit is for life, not just for Christmas,’ says Hartwell Homeless Small Animal Sanctuary

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The self-funded animal sanctuary in south Northants is appealing to breeders and those purchasing rabbits to consider the heartbreaking impact that unwanted rabbits are creating

With the cost of living crisis felt by many, unwanted pets are on the rise and Hartwell Small Animal Sanctuary is seeing the sadness created by this.

Louise Norman runs Hartwell Homeless Small Animal Sanctuary with her husband and parents and they rely on public donations and their own funds to run the warm and caring facility.

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Initially they were a safe, holding area that the RSPCA centres and the Wonky Pets Rescue would use to temporarily house small animals that had been found or for ones that were going to find it difficult to be rehomed.

The male and female dumped in a pub car park in Stoke BruerneThe male and female dumped in a pub car park in Stoke Bruerne
The male and female dumped in a pub car park in Stoke Bruerne

Louise Norman said: “I used to get one or two strays for rehoming passed to me a year, but this has now increased incredibly to 10 in just two months. This has been over Christmas and there have been some heartbreaking stories.

“Sometimes circumstances do change and rabbits or guinea pigs are needed to be rehomed, especially with many feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis. I now have a waiting list for those who have contacted me wanting help to responsibly rehome their pets.

“But what I am finding now, is that there are desperate owners and breeders who are just letting their rabbits into the wild, to fend for themselves. These rabbits will not survive in the wild, and will be killed by foxes or other rabbits or even dogs.

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“I attended a rescue before Christmas where I witnessed abandoned rabbits being killed by domestic dogs and it was heartbreaking.

Two babies - part of a group of rabbits dumped at Delapre Abbey in NorthamptonTwo babies - part of a group of rabbits dumped at Delapre Abbey in Northampton
Two babies - part of a group of rabbits dumped at Delapre Abbey in Northampton

“There are many pet rabbits having to be rescued, many from irresponsible breeders, and I have had no option but to hold them here, where they will take the precious space needed to hold a pet for a family in need.”

The different breeds of rabbits currently being looked after by Louise at the sanctuary are beautiful and sought after breeds. Lop-eared varieties and Netherland Dwarf rabbits are just a couple.

Just before Christmas a family of lop-eared rabbits were rescued from the Salcey Forest area. This was a mum and dad and their babies, which were all safely rescued.

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Mum and Dad have been called ‘Joey’ and ‘Salcey’ and their babies have now all been rehomed. This gorgeous pair are still waiting for a home and they would make loving pets to a family that is committed. They are tame, playful and great fun.

Edwin, Alvin and Albert - Netherland Dwarf rabbits released by a breederEdwin, Alvin and Albert - Netherland Dwarf rabbits released by a breeder
Edwin, Alvin and Albert - Netherland Dwarf rabbits released by a breeder

On Christmas Eve Louise was called out to a pub car park in Stoke Bruerne where two pet rabbits had been spotted. After hours of crawling through mud and running about, Louise was able to rescue both the male and female and currently has them at the sanctuary for rehoming.

“It’s a rabbit crisis and I plead to breeders and those thinking of buying a rabbit to really think hard about the long term commitment that these pets need,” she continued.

“Dumping animals in the wild is not the answer and it’s just cruel.”

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The work that Louise and her family do at Hartwell Sanctuary is truly amazing. The sheds and cages they keep are warm and clean and all the animals are loved.

There are a number of guinea pigs with very sad stories that are staying with Louise. Some are being provided with end of life care due to illness and some have been traumatised by experience.

One female guinea pig was rescued from a reptile breeder, who was using her solely to breed to produce food for his business. This is just one of many sad stories Louise comes across in her role.

Hartwell Homeless Small Animal Sanctuary welcomes any donations from the public to help with providing the expensive vet services, food, bedding and caging.

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They have set up an Amazon wish list that you can access here, which will give you a list of items Louise and the family would really welcome.

Donations to their vet Paypal account would also be greatly appreciated. This is @HartwellsHomeless1 and all donations go to Vets4pets in St James, Northampton, where Louise takes the animals she looks after.

Follow Louise and her small animals on Facebook as she is great at keeping everyone informed of her rescues and there are some amazing photos and stories. They also have a fundraising Facebook page.

The long, rambling garden in Hartwell is the home of Louise’s mum and dad and is the perfect place for sheds to keep cages and in the summer the small animals spend a lot of time in runs. There are hedgehog houses at the end of the garden too.

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Louise and her husband, Steve also have some rescued animals at their home so caring for animals never stops for them. A budgie, a rabbit called Knowl (abdandoned in Knowlhill in Milton Keynes) are just two of the lodgers she looks after.

Louise said: “We are not a rescue centre, but a sanctuary for rabbits, guinea pigs, small furries, birds and tortoises who have health and behavioural special needs that rescue centres would struggle to rehome. These spaces are now being used up by the strays and abandoned pets that have no issue, apart from being homeless.”

Louise added: “If you are interested in rehoming a small animal, just take your time and really consider what work and cost is involved.”

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