How we started
Worcestershire Animal Rescue Shelter (WARS) was formed on the 23rd May 1983 following a public meeting, which expressed great concern about the number of unwanted animals being abandoned and ultimately destroyed within the County. Agreement was reached that the most satisfactory way to effect a change was to provide a genuine animal shelter equipped and staffed to take care of all such abandoned, lost, unwanted, stray and neglected animals.
Every effort was directed towards fundraising, from modest fairs and jumble sales to an Annual Fun Day held on Pitchcroft. Early on we were fortunate to receive financial help and advice from the Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust and eventually we became affiliated to the Trust.
We also received support from Wood Green Animal Shelter who assisted us in gaining planning permission for the site purchased in November 1991 at Hawthorn Lane, Newland comprising 6½ acres. The cost for agricultural land at this time was around £2,000 per acre, however, the Charity ended up paying over £45,000. All of the infrastructure works necessary for the site to become operational then took place at a cost of £108,000.
Off to a rough start
After our funds had been depleted with the purchase of the site and cost of infrastructure, during 1996 – 1997 we saw quite a change in our fortunes. Firstly we received £10,000 from Malvern Hills District Council plus a magnificent legacy of £13,000, then the new Mayor of Worcester chose us as his Charity of the Year from which we received £7,000 and a firm of Worcester Solicitors gave us £1,000 raised from sponsored events.
Unfortunately before 1997 was out, our site was invaded by travellers who used bolt croppers to gain access through our security gate. They stayed for two weeks and we were powerless to move them on. Eventually we had to get a Court Order to have them evicted; this involved legal fees plus a bill for cleaning up the mess they left behind; we also then had the cost of erecting extra secure fencing.
Fundraising continued in earnest, however it seemed that being able to build kennels, accommodation for the Manager together with an office space and eventually open our doors to the public was getting harder to achieve. The plan was to have the Shelter for all animals, however, as dogs were likely to be the most frequent residents we drew up plans with them in mind.
Moving forward with hope
In 1999 a party of Committee members visited Leicestershire Animal Aid. We came away with enthusiasm and optimism because they appeared to have overcome their hurdles and we felt sure we could do the same. LAA continue to help us to this day for which we are extremely grateful.
With renewed vigour we contacted an experienced kennel builder and asked him to start work on a block of 10 long line kennels and on the 17th April 2000 work began on the kennels and isolation unit. Foundations were excavated and the surplus soil deposited as an anti-noise embankment. During the works we were fortunate to receive a further legacy which enabled us to build additional kennels so we were able to build 22 kennels plus 4 isolation kennels. The cost for these works was in excess of £120,000. We also purchased two mobile homes, one to accommodate the resident manager and the second for office/reception use.
It was unanimously agreed by the Committee to dedicate the isolation block in memory of a special lady, Wendy Yates, our first Secretary, who worked tirelessly from the first meeting in 1983 to ensure WARS became a reality. Sadly, Wendy had to relinquish the post as she and her husband relocated to Devon and it was with much sadness that she passed away before she could see the dream she worked so hard for succeed. Her devotion to animal welfare without doubt helped WARS get to where it is today.
opening to the public
The Shelter officially opened its doors on the 9th April 2001, employing three members of staff who oversee the day to day running of the site - 18 years after the Charity was set up.
We were also fortunate to secure the stray dog contract from Malvern Hills District Council taking in stray dogs via the Dog Warden.
A much needed vehicle was kindly provided to us at no cost to the Charity from a local company, Brookhire, for ferrying dogs to and from the vets. All animals that come into our care are vaccinated, spayed or neutered and micro chipped before they leave the Shelter, this has been the case since we opened.
Developing our site
As more monies became available, it was agreed to build living quarters and office accommodation; this work commenced on the 14th January 2004 at a cost of £73,820.
Due to the number of stray dogs being brought into the Shelter (all of which are quarantined for seven days) it was found necessary to build additional isolation units. The building of a further 4 units commenced on the 18th February 2005 at a cost of £29,755.
During 2008/2009 we built our cattery unit housing 10 pods, two isolation pods and an indoor play pen; this build cost in excess of £70,000 which included planning permission, ground works, electrical works, and fitting out kitchen area etc. This cattery unit is built in memory of our late Treasurer Joyce Lockett who was instrumental in getting the Charity where we are today and an avid cat lover.
outdoor space for the animals
With a dedicated team of fundraisers, we had two outdoor exercise areas built so that the dogs could have exercise off the lead. Unfortunately during the winter months these could not be used, therefore in 2012 it was agreed that we put down artificial grass so they can be used year in year out. The cost of making them usable all year was £16,225 plus VAT.
We also greatly appreciate Madresfield Estate for allowing us to rent the copse in the corner of the site at a low rate each year. This area was cleared and fencing was erected and ever since it has been an invaluable space for our dogs to play outside and use as a sensory garden.
It was agreed by the Committee that the copse would be dedicated to the memory of our late Chair/President, Barbara Hardwick, who was a stalwart supporter of animal welfare and the environment. It was felt this was a fitting tribute to all the support and effort Barbara gave to the Charity.
As and when funding allows, we intend to build additional facilities such as a memorial garden, together with a structure which will help bring revenue into the Charity.
Back in 2016 it was necessary to purchase a new vehicle and we were fortunate to receive over £13,000 from someone who was a passionate animal lover, Andrew Hawcutt, who was a very dear friend to us and sadly passed away far too young. We used these funds to purchase a Renault van and fitted it with cages to allow cats and dogs to be transported safely.
The Committee agreed to build an extension to the office area which included a brand new reception area, a Shelter Shop, rehoming room, multi-function community room, dedicated veterinary room, storage space and three chill out rooms at a total cost of £136,000. In 2018 this new build was officially opened.
We received several grants to help us in this build from The Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust, Mars Pedigree, L E Andrews Trust and the Ratcliffe Foundation all of which were very much appreciated.
Each of these new areas have proved invaluable to the smooth running of the Shelter. The dedicated reception area allows us to deal with enquiries and shop sales away from the staff offices, the rehoming rooms allows privacy when surrendering or rehoming an animal and the dedicated vets room gives privacy and quite when examining our animals. The multi-function room has been used for staff meetings and training as well as a number of public events and workshops - which help raise much needed funds. The chill out rooms are fitted out to replicate a home environment whereby dogs can relax and get ready for their forever homes.
We are currently building a new cattery extension for mums and kittens to allow them quite until such time as they are up for rehoming. The cost to date for the build is £40,000 and it is hoped this will be up and running very soon.
All of the above would not be possible without the support of the Committee, past and present, who are dedicated in ensuring WARS continues the work it started so many years ago.
We also have a wonderful team of staff and volunteers who ensure that the animals in our care are looked after until such time as forever loving homes can be found. We appreciate everything they do for us here at the Shelter, they are invaluable to us and help make up the community here at WARS.
There have been many times when it would have been so easy to walk away, however, we, Committee/Trustees, Staff and volunteers, are all passionate that WARS continues to carry out the work in helping stray and unwanted animals find a forever loving home which they so rightly deserve.