Collaboration between CottonTails® and Bristol Animal Rescue Centre (Bristol A.R.C.)

CottonTails Rabbit & Guinea Pig Rescue > Collaboration between CottonTails® and Bristol Animal Rescue Centre (Bristol A.R.C.)

“We are very pleased to be joining forces with Bristol Animal Rescue Centre (Bristol A.R.C.) to improve rabbit welfare in Bristol and the surrounding area. We will provide Bristol A.R.C. funding to cover the cost of neutering rabbits through Bristol A.R.C.’s outreach services. Eligible rabbit owners seeking support with neutering and vaccinating their rabbits can find more on Bristol A.R.C.’s website here: Outreach Clinics “

Since our lowly start in 1993, CottonTails® has evolved through many stages, some by choice, some forced on us due to circumstances such as the COVID pandemic.  The charity is now moving forward to a new and exciting stage in our development, and I thought it would be a good idea to briefly look back at where we have been before we embrace the future, so we can fully understand what has driven this positive new direction.

Looking back now, I am amazed the charity ever got off the ground. It was only with a mix of determination, belief in the cause, and a big chunk of naivety that we made it through the first few months to become the well-received charity that we are today.

During the years I have had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful and interesting people, and some that I am happy never to encounter again!  However, I learned a great deal from both categories, shaping my approach to running the charity with more understanding, knowledge and humility – eating humble pie was a hard but essential lesson along the way!

At our height, we were taking over 1000 animals a year, including rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, birds (both wild and domestic), and a variety of wildlife such as hedgehogs, squirrels, ducks, crows and other birds.  I frequently gave illustrated talks at functions and open days, schools and groups, and a lot of my time was spent manning the telephone advice line, as communication by email and text was not even a twinkle back then.  The charity gradually shifted to concentrate on rabbits and guinea pigs, as the other categories were well served by other organisations nearby, whereas rabbits and guinea pigs were severely neglected in the locality regarding their welfare and rehoming.

Despite moving location twice, CottonTails® continued with this vital work. Throughout this time, we worked closely with RSPCA Bristol (now Bristol A.R.C.), as all our neutering and many of our vaccinations were carried out by the clinic team headed by the Principal Veterinary Surgeon, Dr Damian Pacini BVSc (Comm.) CertAVP MRCVS. Without their help, we would not have been able to continue, and this association led me to consider the most recent change in direction for our charity.

The Covid pandemic affected CottonTails® drastically.  Overnight, we had to work out where to store the rabbit and guinea pig waste and how to source fresh vegetables, bedding and dried food.  As I had just accepted a large number of rabbits for rehoming, the timing could not have been worse.  Rehoming became almost impossible, but after a while, we worked out a system that would comply with all the COVID rules and were thus able to find homes for our inmates.

During that time, we could not accept new animals, as our options for neutering were reduced to zero, and I had no option but to come up with a new plan – thus the Direct Rehoming Service was born. Free at the point of service, owners who needed to rehome their rabbit or guinea pig got in touch by email or Facebook, and I would list the animal on our Facebook page in a targeted appeal to find a suitable new home.  Any home offers were screened and then passed on to the owner for them to take from there.

Because the majority of rabbits were not neutered or vaccinated, I came up with the idea that CottonTails® could fund part of the veterinary costs and decided that £60 towards neutering and £40 towards vaccination was appropriate, payable to the veterinary surgery that would be carrying out the procedures.  As trustees, we agreed that this would be a very good use of funds, as this is exactly what we would have been spending money on, had the animals been under my direct care anyway.

Once the pandemic stabilised and after discussion with the trustees, I made the decision to continue with the Direct Rehoming Service as our permanent rehoming method, and it has proved very successful, ironically enabling me to offer help to every single person who contacts me as I do not have to wait for a space to be able to take in an animal.  The acceptance rate averages around 70% of those who take up my offer of assistance, the remainder either changing their minds or are unable or unwilling to wait for a home to be found.

After further deliberation, I approached Dr Damian Pacini with a sponsorship idea.  Thus, the collaboration between CottonTails® and Bristol A.R.C. Outreach Service began.  I am very excited about this project and am delighted that we will be instrumental in having direct and beneficial input on the health and welfare of rabbits and guinea pigs who are at far higher risk of “slipping through the net” due to the personal circumstances of their owners.  I am confident we will be able to support this project for many years to come, and I really believe that we can and will make a difference in the lives of many little furries that so desperately need our help.


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