There is no denying that I am a crazy animal lady. I have been one for most of my life and pretty much the only reason I never became a vet, as I had wanted since the age of 6, was due to my dad who, also around that time, informed me that animals do need to be put down sometimes. I do understand it now (not then), but I am still too much of a softie so… Anyway, there was one place I could not miss out on while still living in Oxford and that place was the one and only Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary.
I have been to quite a few wonderful sanctuaries around the UK yet I had never made it to the one closest to me! Just the way things are, right? Until last Saturday, that is, armed with goodie bags full of toys and some bedding for the doggos plus the company of three men to carry them for me (I admit, this might have been a bit of an overkill) – I finally made it there.
And what a great Saturday it was!
About Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary
Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary is the temporary home to a great many cats, dogs and rabbits – and the forever home to a couple of goats, a horse and an adorable little pony called April.
As a no refusal – no destruction sanctuary it is pretty much everything any animal lover could hope for their fluffy friends. No cry for help is left unanswered – and if there is no space available for new admissions, a suitable replacement is found. And, even more importantly, no healthy animal will ever be put down here; you can rest assured that all resident animals will get all the help, love and care that they need and will never be sacrificed for the sake of convenience.
You would be surprised how often that is NOT the case when it comes to animal welfare. It makes safe havens like Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary so much more important.
The sanctuary itself is situated very much in the middle of nowhere – in a little village called Stadhampton, South-East of Oxford. According to some old legends there is a bus running there from Oxford City Centre, however, since it is a bus in Oxfordshire, it only runs till… 11am? and then magically disappears wherever it is that all the rest of the Oxfordshire buses go to hide in the middle of the day. And since adoption visiting hours are 2-3pm – there is not much luck in that department.
It is a car or taxi kind of journey, unless you happen to pick up a cat that cycles, that is.
Again, it is Oxfordshire.
Which cat here doesn’t cycle?
As our visit happened to fall on a sunny, Saturday afternoon in the middle of Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary’s visiting hours, I expected crowds. I did. I always do. I routinely manage to overestimate the size of people’s hearts every time I visit a shelter or sanctuary.
Although, on the other hand I am also continually surprised as to just how dedicated the people working in places such as OAS are; and this was no exception. So, in the end, the truth is rather in the middle.
We met some wonderful people at the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary; all absolutely in love with every animal under their care. I don’t think I have heard the phrase I just want to take them all home quite as many times in my life as I did that day. Count me in on that though. I would take them all home in a heartbeat.
As the day was a calm one we got taken for a small tour around the facilities. The only place we did not get to visit were the dog kennels – but as this could be stressful to the pooches, I feel like it was simply better this way.
We saw so many pets.
Our first point of visit was home to the numerous cats ready for adoption. I say home as it really did not feel like one of those scary shelters one immediately imagines from movies. My first connotation was to one of those super clean and yet somehow still cozy Korean capsule hotels. These cats live in style, I’m telling you.
Some of them roam freely abound the building and the garden just outside while others prefer the comfort of their own rooms. Some live together. Some live by themselves. It is very much a whatever-fits-you-sweetie kind of attitude – but if you feel like some of them could get a bit lonely, during weekdays 2-3 pm cat house slot turns into a cat socializing event. I am sure they will be happy to have a few extra hugs!
One of the things I immediately noticed is HOW extraordinarily friendly all the cats were and how excited they were to play and cuddle with us. Even the grumpy ones, such as George (sorry, George, we have been warned about you!) allowed me to pet him for a rather long time, even rubbing up against my legs and all. It was cute and sad at the same time, and made me realize that no matter how caring the people over at the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary are – these little fluffs need a real home. A family.
This sentiment seemed to be commonly expressed across the sanctuary’s staff. I asked the staff around for their favourites, the ones they truly missed and every little story I got back ended with the relief that they did, indeed, find a place to stay for the rest of their lives. Similarly, when I asked of the happiest memories of working with animals, the ones about pets awaiting re-homing the longest and finally finding someone to love them were very common.
It was so sad, leaving all these cats behind.
All of them were sweet and super super friendly – but there was one who truly captured my heart, and that was Cleo. Cleo is a sixteen-year-old lady cat and as such has only a very slim chance of ever finding a new home for herself and her sister, also awaiting adoption. But, if we were not leaving for Spain in a couple of weeks, she would be coming home with us and none of the silly no pets allowed rules in out building would stop us.
If you do happen to live in Oxfordshire – please pay Cleo a visit. Pet her on her head for me. And then send me lots of pics of her, hopefully already in your loving home!
Being the bunny lady I am, I couldn’t miss out on the rabbit huts. I am pretty sure that a lot of people are not aware of the fact that various shelters and sanctuaries do have little pets for adoption, as well as the usual cats and dogs, and Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary is one of these shelters.
It is rare that a bunny gets a visit, let alone gets adopted; and the stories behind rabbits making it into the shelters are often quite different to those of cats and dogs. There are just so many misconceptions about bunnies as pets – starting with their nature and ending with their lifespan, for instance. They seem like a perfect gift for children, right? A little fluffy toy?
I must have been a really good girl this year as after I asked nicely (and pleadingly) I was allowed access to the insides of a few of the bunny cages, and even distributed some dandelion leaves to the rabbits in the process. I was even showed around the hatch with some of the European rabbits, considerably bigger than your usual house bunny, although since they were on quarantine, they had to stay on the other side of the bars from me.
I know. I was as devastated.
In fact, something that is worth mentioning is that all the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary newcomers are subjected to a relatively long quarantine. They all undergo vaccination, chipping, neutering and any necessary treatment before they can mix with the residents. Also, during your visit you will be asked to sanitize your hands between each encounter. Safety first!
Finally, we made it to everyone’s favourite part (surprisingly) – the goats. All five of the goats living at the OAS are sponsored animals and as such are not available for adoption; but once you see them, you will be tempted to hatch a scheme to steal them away, I assure you.
The absolute newcomers to the sanctuary, Tigger and Arthur, are two Anglo-Nubian goats that truly look a bit more like hounds than goats. These were the real stars of the show – trying to hop up onto the willow tree to snap some extra leaves and overall looking really goofy. If there is one thing all goats have in common, it is looking goofy. Especially so if they also look like dogs in the process.
And then, when we thought the day couldn’t get any better – there came the horse enclosure, featuring one enormous Ben and one rather tiny April. Since discovering Port Meadow very near to where we live in Oxford, I have become way… better with horses than I was before; but still, I am rather wary just due to their sheer size. But this time even my boyfriend was surprised how enthusiastic I was to feed them some mints – even though this did require a full lick of my hand in the process!
How can you help?
The obvious option – adopt… is not always an option.
The sanctuary accepts all sort of gifts and methods of support though, and not all of them require lifelong dedication and a pocket full of golden pound coins.
If you would like to help Oxforshire Animal Sanctuary – which is entirely run by donations and such, and relies on this help in the fullest – there are numerous ways to go about it.
Adopt or foster. Any little fellow made happy is the best gift you could present to the sanctuary. Adoption can be something not everyone can commit to, but there are fostering opportunities too. The latter are particularly important with the little kittens who simply need to learn their way around a real house to know that carpets are not the best place to pee on!
Volunteer! Time is one of the most precious things you can donate to any charity. OAS needs volunteers to help with dog walking as well as overall cleaning and maintenance of the place. So, roll up your sleeves and hope for some cheeky cat petting time during any breaks!
Sponsor an animal. As in any such institution, Oxford Animal Sanctuary offers sponsoring schemes for all their resident animals that cannot for one reason or another be adopted. So maybe you don’t have to commit any goatnapping after all. Maybe you could just be there in spirit?
Simply donate. Cannot decide which of the animals you’d like to support most? Help all of them at once!
Attend or organize a fundraiser. Ask your friends. Work collegues. Strangers on the street. There are so many ways to collect some money for a charity even if you yourself are on a very tight budget. Bake sales are one of my favourites, but you are just one step away from climbing Mount Everest to help some pups. Just saying.
Bring your unwanted stuff to a charity shop. Oxford Animal Sanctuary has plenty of stores across Oxfordshire, with one such shop in Oxford’s Summertown. So next time you’re going through a wardrobe clear-out, think of Cleo and get donating. Bonus – afterwards you can go on a beautiful walk by the Oxford canal and Trap Grounds!
Get some toys and food. The sanctuary accepts gifts of any sort – food, toys and even old bedding. Most of the donated funds do go towards feeding and medicating the animals, and such, so things like scratching posts go very far down on the priority list quickly.
Helping other animal sanctuaries (and such)
You may say – but I live all the way in Scotland! How could I possibly ever make it to Oxforshire, let alone Stadhampton?
I am sure that anyone working at the OAF would agree with me on one thing – no matter where you are in the world, you can help not only the residents of Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, but also the thousands and thousands of other suffering pets.
A quick Google search should reveal any animal sanctuaries nearby. If you do live in Oxford, there is the Waterfowl Sanctuary near Banbury too (not too nearby, but still!), nearly all of the bigger towns in the UK will have one.
Similarly, there are numerous websites that will help you organize your charity time. Do-it springs to mind from personal experience but even usually event-oriented sites like Eventbrite will be able to point you in the direction of your nearest charity fundraiser.
One thing needs to be stressed – when choosing a charity to support, it is important to check what they actually do. Charity scams, unfortunately, are as common as flu, especially in a country as in love with charities as the UK is, and it would be a real shame if all your money and effort did not end up making the world a better place.
Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary earned my trust – and I can assure you, if you do want to trust a stranger on the Internet, that they do live to help the little fluffs.
As do a great many other people around, thank the Universe!
Contacting the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary
The Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary,
The Village Green,
If you want to visit to discuss adopting one of animals: Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary is open from 2pm to 3pm everyday except Tuesday and Friday. Please visit the office to complete the homefinder questionnaire. You don’t need to book an appointment, simply visit during these times.
If you are donating bedding: You can visit from 9am to 4pm, every day.