Capricorn - Nov18 pic6The future of 137 animals has been safeguarded, after RSPCA Cymru took part in a multi-agency operation at a North Wales animal sanctuary on Tuesday (27 November), which saw a “Noah’s Ark” of animals removed from the site.

Pet, farm, exotic and wild animals were all taken from Capricorn Animal Rescue, in Padeswood, near Mold.

The intervention follows a Charity Commission statutory inquiry into Capricorn, following continued concerns about the sustainability and management of the charity.

Guy Hollander of Mazars LLP was appointed as Interim Manager of Capricorn by the Charity Commission on 30 July, and on Tuesday – made a decision that the charity was no longer viable, resulting in the need to rehome the animals, with the assistance of the RSPCA.

The “challenging and complex” operation took approximately nine hours to complete. On site, RSPCA staff in several teams tended to the animals, all of whom were checked by a veterinarian before being transferred to boarding and specialist establishments for further care.

Some 137 animals were signed over by the interim manager into RSPCA care.

These included 41 cats, 17 birds – including budgies, parakeets and cockatiels – 14 rabbits, ten dogs, ten hamsters, eight guinea pigs, five bearded dragons, five degus, five pigs, five ferrets, three snakes, two gerbils, a chinchilla and a goose.

RSPCA Cymru say it would prove “exceptionally difficult” for a small sanctuary to provide adequate care for such a range of species without significant resources, preparation and contingency planning.

The animal welfare charity has long campaigned for sanctuaries to be regulated, to ensure better protection for the animals kept by animal welfare establishments across Wales.

RSPCA Cymru superintendent, Martyn Hubbard said: “We’ve been aware of the Capricorn institution for many years, and have been working hard to ensure animal welfare standards.

“Our focus and priority is always the welfare of animals and we were pleased to be able to help the Charity Commission and interim manager on this multi-animal operation.

“This operation was a challenging and complex one which included a high number of animals and a range of species which require specialist needs.It would be exceptionally difficult to provide this without thorough daily planning and resources.

“It was a real Noah’s Ark of animals; and – amid heavy rain – a range of pets, exotics, farm animals and wildlife were removed from Capricorn and came into our care. Boarding places have been found for each of them, with many – like the exotic and wild animals – going to specialist establishments.

“Some 137 animals have seen their futures safeguarded as a consequence of this operation, and the RSPCA will now work to ensure the animals enjoy the highest possible standards of care long into the future.”

Capricorn Sanctuary is one of approximately 90 known animal welfare establishments in Wales – but, in reality, there are likely to be many more. The RSPCA says many sanctuaries do a “great job” in protecting animals – but the charity is concerned a lack of regulation for the sector could be masking serious animal welfare problems.

Anyone can set-up and run a sanctuary – regardless of whether they have the skills, knowledge or resources that many would expect would be required. Establishments – like Capricorn – can be providing care for a wide range of animals with complex needs. Often expert care is needed; and detailed plans required to manage problems caused by animal illness, staff absence, and financial pressures.

Polling suggests 83 per cent of people in Wales believe animal sanctuary owners should be licensed, and face regular inspections.

Riding schools, cat and dog boarders and dog breeders are all licensed and inspected by their local council – offering additional protection to animals – but sanctuaries are currently not. As such, when things go wrong, there is often no safety net to ensure the animals are adequately cared for. The RSPCA believe action should be taken to regulate the sector, offering vital assurances to the public about standards.

Claire Lawson, RSPCA Cymru Assistant Director of External Relations, said: “We know many sanctuaries do a great job for animal welfare – but the lack of regulation is a major cause for concern.

“Positively, the regulation of animal welfare establishments is already in force elsewhere in the British Isles; and in Wales there are important parallels with the regulation of riding schools, dog breeders, kennels and catteries.

“Worryingly, our observations suggest much of the general public already believe establishments are both regulated and regularly inspected.

“Robust regulation will mean measures are in place to better protect animals; offering vital reassurance to the public, and ensuring centres have plans to prevent problems from escalating.

“As an active member of the Animal Welfare Network for Wales (AWNW), we have proudly worked with fellow animal groups to develop a code of practice – recently submitted to Welsh Government – to guide establishments on both animal welfare standards, and appropriate processes to ensure their future sustainability.”

If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.