Author - Ferne Animal Sanctuary

New Visitor Centre at Ferne Animal Sanctuary officially open!

Welcome to our new ‘Rona Harman’ Visitor Centre at Ferne Animal Sanctuary, officially opened last week by one of Rona’s oldest friend’s Andrea (pictured).


Thanks to Rona’s generous legacy to Ferne, her donation has enabled us build the Visitor Centre for Ferne, a Sanctuary designated to help foster and encourage ‘best animal care practice’ and help educate all our visitors about animal welfare well into the future.

Rona Cynthia Harman was born on the 16th April 1943, the only child of film processing supervisor William Harman and woollen garment finisher Martha.

As a child, Rona divided her time between her parents’ London home in Harrow and their holiday home on the Dorset coast.

Family photographs show a happy childhood with holidays by the sea shared with family and friends as well as animals of all different shapes and sizes. It is evident from the extensive collection of photographs that Rona and her family were animal lovers and the animals accompanied them on many of their holidays.

As Rona grew up her love affair with animals continued; her family continued to visit the South West, a particular favourite family place was Mangerton Mill, a seventeenth-century water mill in rural Dorset.

One of Rona’s other passions was books and reading and therefore it is unsurprising that she chose a career in the library service working in libraries in London throughout her career. Sadly her career was cut short by ill health and she took early retirement, remaining in the London home of her parents.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Rona was also an excellent needlewoman not only producing beautiful pieces of stitchwork but also teaching herself to frame them!

In later life she cared for her elderly mother until her death. Relieved of her caring responsibilities Rona indulged in her other lifelong passion – films. Being a librarian, however, she was careful to catalogue every visit in her diary demonstrating an eclectic taste having watched films as diverse as Shine and Fly Away Home!

Animals played an important part in Rona’s life – there is hardly a photograph that doesn’t show an animal of one sort or another enjoying life with the family. From our research, we can identify at least seven dogs, one cat and three tortoises.

The Harman family animals came in all shapes and sizes from a little fluffy Pomeranian through to a German Shepherd cross with pointy ears and a brush for a tail!

Rona’s three tortoises called Nefertiti, Cleopatra and Jennifer lived with them in London. In June 1999 as her health declined, Rona decided that she would ask Ferne to look after them. It is unclear how she knew about Ferne and our work before she asked us to take on her tortoises. At the time we took the tortoises in they were already venerable old ladies. Their admission paperwork indicates that Cleopatra was temperamental, Jennifer had something of biting habit and could not be relied upon but Nefertiti was described as friendly. Cleopatra and Jennifer passed away in their sixties but Nefertiti lived well into her seventies and is fondly remembered by some of the current animal care team.

Rona’s closest friend Andrea remembers her friend…

“Rona talked about her holidays, her friends and the animals here at Ferne often. She would spend her day talking to the staff and animals and she would tell me of the lovely meals eaten in the café – watching the world go by! She spent many happy times here.

Rona’s favourite animal was the tortoise, and for years she had 3 in her back garden, she said they were the best grass cutters! Sadly when Rona became ill, she could no longer look after them and they found a new home at the sanctuary. When she came back from holiday she always mentioned that she had seen “the girls” who looked happy and well.

Rona would be thrilled the new visitor centre is named in her honour and helps to strengthen and further develop the good works of the Sanctuary.”

In June 1999 as her health declined, Rona re-homed her tortoises to us to look after. She used to visit them regularly until Nefertiti passed away in 2009. The staff here remember her as a quiet and unassuming lady with a lovely smile and laughing eyes who was always interested in our work and in particular the tortoises.

In 2009 Rona became a Friend of Ferne with a monthly standing order that continued until her death. We continued to correspond with her and she received the then quarterly newsletter.

On one of her visits, Rona asked if Ferne would act as Executor for her will which although we had not done previously we agreed to. She never discussed leaving a legacy to Ferne so we were both surprised and humbled to find that she had left the majority of her estate to Ferne.

Rona passed away in July 2016 after a long period of very poor health.

As a result of her legacy, we have been able to build this amazing new centre that will welcome visitors for years to come and help us educate more people how to take better care of their animals. We think she would have approved!

If you would like to know more about Leaving a Gift in Your Will, Making a Donation, Corporate Sponsorship or Fundraising, please get in touch.

How to help hedgehogs in your garden

Being Helpful to Hedgehogs

Around 95% of British hedgehogs have been lost since the 1950’s, so they really need our help.  Here are some quick tips so that your garden can be helpful to hedgehogs

Tip 1   Link your garden – make a hole in your fence or wall so that Hedgehogs can wander in and out, 13cm x 13cm is big enough but too small for most pets.

Tip 2  Make your pond safe  – hedgehogs are good swimmers, but can’t climb out of steep-sided ponds and will drown, set a pile of stones, a piece of wood or some chicken wire at the edge of your pond to create a simple ramp.

Tip 3  Lawn treatments reduce worm numbers, pesticides, insecticides and slug pellets are toxic and unnecessary in a healthy, well-managed garden. If you have a big slug problem use pet and wildlife safe deterrents such as copper tape or beer traps.

Tip 4  Put out food and water – meaty cat or dog food, hedgehog food, and mealworms are all suitable.  This extra food supplements their natural diet.  Put out a bowl of fresh water daily  – never put out milk as it’s really bad for hedgehogs.

For more detailed information on some of these tips and how to build a hedgehog house or for further information see Hedgehog Preservation Society

Don’t give in to those begging eyes, chocolate is not good for your dog!

With Easter approaching, once again we ask dog owners to be particularly careful that their dogs don’t eat any chocolate.

Chocolate contains theobromine which is poisonous to them – the darker the chocolate the greater the danger.  If you think your dog has eaten some chocolate, please get them to the vet immediately, especially if they have any of these symptoms: sore abdomen, excessive thirst, vomiting, hyperactivity, changes in their heart rate or drooling.

Best advice is to keep all chocolate safely out of reach and don’t be tempted to give your dog chocolate as a ‘treat’.

Enjoy your Easter… and your chocolate, but please keep it out of harm’s way!

Nala’s Easter Appeal

Who doesn’t love a cute, fluffy, cuddly baby bunny rabbit?

Unfortunately, too many of us, which means that rabbits like Nala are often bought as pets in the run-up to Easter, and within months, when the novelty has worn off, they become neglected and then unwanted.  This year alone, Ferne have had to turn away over 100 unwanted rabbits as we cannot physically accommodate this number of rabbits at the Sanctuary whilst meeting welfare standards. At any one time, we have a maximum of 16 permanent resident rabbits, which are costly to house and need a minimum of 8ft by 6ft external run space.

With your help, we are hoping to replace our five current hutches, which are in much need of replacement. Each hutch will house two rabbits and cost £240 each, custom made for the best welfare for the rabbits. Whatever you can afford to DONATE NOW towards this cost is greatly appreciated and will not only provide new housing, but also a legacy in terms of best practice for rabbit welfare which people will see when visiting Ferne.

If you would like to donate £240 you can have a hutch dedicated to a special person or place with an engraved plaque*.

These best welfare hutches are free standing (to allow for good air circulation and ability for electricity for heat lamps in colder weather), large indoor space for two rabbits, apex roof (allows for good drainage and isolation area inside for poorly or elderly rabbits).
We hope that with your support, we can provide this housing to be seen at Ferne as an exemplar of rabbit welfare. Our hope is that people will see for themselves the housing and run area required, should they consider getting a pet rabbit.  Over the next month, we will also be running ‘rabbit awareness’ information on our social media, to help people understand that rabbits are not ideal as pets and require more care, attention, space, company and exercise than most people realise.

*When you make a donation of £240, please call us on 01460 65214 to arrange the details of your dedication plaque.

Volunteers Wanted!

Do you enjoy meeting and helping people, sharing your passion for animals, are happy to handle money, work as part of our team and have some time to spare?

If you do, we’d love to meet you tomorrow at our informal volunteer presentation and tell you more about the opportunities to be part of our fantastic Volunteer Team at our new Visitor Centre & Shop and the opportunity to expand your role with additional training.
Thursday 19th January, 10am, Ferne Animal Sanctuary Education Room.

Look forward to meeting you then!

*If you can’t make the presentation, but are interested to find out more, please call us on 01460 65214

Alabama Rot – Information for dog owners

A dog in the Westcountry has been struck down by this flesh-eating dog disease, Alabama Rot (CRGV).  This is a disease caused by damage to blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue.  In the skin, this causes ulceration, however, in the kidneys it can lead to severe organ failure.

If you suspect your dog may have it, depending on the severity, it can be treated and your Vet can advise you on the most appropriate management.  This could include antibiotics, but if the dog is developing kidney failure, will need intensive management, which your Vet will discuss with you.

CRGV has not been seen in animals other than dogs.  Owners of dogs affected by CRGV have not been affected by this illness

To protect your dog as best you can, please take all the precautions listed below:

  • Avoid taking your dogs for walks in muddy wooded areas, particularly after a period of heavy rainfall
  • Wash your dog’s paws and legs thoroughly when you get back from walks
  • If you notice unexplained redness, sores or swelling of the skin (particularly on the paws or legs, but also the body, face, tongue or mouth), these are often the first sign of this disease.  It is important to remember that most of the time a skin problem will NOT be caused by CRGV; however, the lesions in CRGV can be difficult to distinguish from cuts, wounds, stings or bites, so if in doubt it is better to check with your Vet.  Even if the skin changes are caused by CRGV, many dogs will not develop kidney problems and will recover fully.  In this instance make an appointment to see the vet who may well recommend a blood test to see if it is possible to rule CRGV out.
  • Anderson Moores are offering a glomerular filtration rate measurement and free test.  They are inviting vets presented with dogs with skin lesions of unknown cause to call/email and they will give details to your vet on measuring.  This needs to be done one day and then again two weeks later as a compulsory inclusion criteria, otherwise there will be a charge.   This can only be done Mon-Thurs and all costs other than consumables are covered by Andreson Moores as long as the owners come back for the second measurement.

Recent article about Alabama Rot in The Plymouth Herald

Christmas Appeal

Can you spare five minutes?

Ellie, a gorgeous three-year-old Beagle, arrived at Ferne in one of the worst conditions we have ever seen.

She had been rescued from a Puppy Farm and was terrified of human touch and voices, confused and distraught by space that she could move around in, and even daylight.  Human interaction caused her to shut down, literally too paralysed with fear to move, often soiling herself where she lay.

Ellie came to us just in time, and with specialist around the clock care, she slowly started to recover.  However, there are many more defenceless animals like Ellie who, without our help, may not have such a happy ending.

Ellie is just one of the 300 abandoned, neglected or unwanted animals rescued and cared for at Ferne Animal Sanctuary, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.  Every five minutes’ costs us £10 to care for the animals we rescue.

“We provide the essential food, warmth, care and protection they need,worse” said Elaine Hayes, CEO of Ferne, “along with any emergency medical treatment for extreme cases of neglect or cruelty or, long term care for some animals that are too old, traumatised or unsuitable to ever be re-homed”.

Christmas Day is just another day here at Ferne, but it is a really demanding time of year where our resources are stretched to the limit with a seasonal influx of unwanted animals.  That’s why we need your help, especially now.

With a gift of £10, you’ll help Ferne Animal Sanctuary carry on our vital work and save the lives of many more vulnerable animals like Ellie.  A donation that changes a life, not just for Christmas, but forever.

Thankfully,worst is now over for Ellie.  After nearly six months of rehabilitation, with many hours spent each day gently winning her trust, Ellie steadily recovered and learned to enjoy a new way of life.  She has been adopted by a wonderful family, so this Christmas will be a special one for her as she has a life ahead with people who love and care for her.

Ferne Animal Sanctuary receives not government funding and every day we rely on public donations to find £90,000 each month to cover our care and rescue costs. Ferne has been caring for unwanted and abandoned animals for over 75 years.

Dogs and heatstroke – Signs and Treatment

How to avoid it and how to treat it…

Did you know… that an animal left in a hot car could die in as little as 20 minutes from heatstroke?


How to avoid your pet getting heatstroke

  • Never leave pets in cars, conservatories or caravans, not even for a short time. This includes cloudy days with the windows open as temperature can rise quickly in a short time.
  • Avoid exercising your pets at the hottest time of the day. Early mornings or evenings are the best times to exercise your pets in summer.
  • Keep exercise of pets to a minimum and make sure they also have access to cool, indoor areas.
  • Owners of flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs should be extra careful as these breeds have restricted airways and don’t cope well with heat.
  • A dog wearing a muzzle is at high risk because it may be unable to control its body temperature adequately by panting.
  • Stressed, over-excited or over-exercised dogs can be at risk even if the temperature and humidity is not excessive, particularly if they are in a poorly ventilated environment.


Some signs of heatstroke

Dogs often don’t show any warning signs of heatstroke.  However, as their body temperature increases you might notice:

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • lethargy, drowsiness or poor coordination
  • Reddened gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle tremors or seizures

Any of these symptoms can lead them to quickly collapse or become unconscious.

If not treated as an emergency, this can be fatal !­


If you suspect your pet has heatstroke

The most important thing to remember is that they urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually:

  • Move your dog to a shaded or cool area
  • Pour small amounts of room temperature (not cold) water onto your dog’s body.
  • Do not use cold water or ice to cool them down – it may send them into shock.
  • If possible, wrap your dog in wet towels or place your dog in the breeze of a fan.
  • Allow your dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Continue to pour small amounts of room temperature water onto your dog until their breathing starts to settle but never so much that they begin to shiver.
  • Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet immediately, even if you feel they have made a full recovery.


Please help Poppy!

Poppy is no ordinary dog.

She has an extraordinary zest for life which is really quite inexplicable given the pain she has been putting up with for quite some time now.  In addition to this, poor Poppy has also been passed from pillar to post by a series of owners in her three years’ of life, allowing her illnesses to go untreated and the severity of her pain to go undetected, until now on her arrival at Ferne.

“Poppy really stands out as one of the most adorable, friendly and loving dogs we have ever cared for at Ferne” commented Animal Care Manager, Tara.  “She has never had a permanent home or family, has lived with excruciating pain and yet she just doesn’t have a bad side to her.  It’s as though she’s put her total trust in us to make her better, wagging her tail even as we give her medicine or take her to the Vets.  Without a doubt, she has won all of our hearts here.”

Soon after her arrival, it turned out that finding a home for Poppy was the least of her problems as our early suspicions about ligament problems in her hind legs were confirmed.  It also transpired that these were very serious, not least as one ligament had already ruptured, causing much pain for quite some time. Additionally, she also has problems in both knees, her hips and her spine. Without treatment, there is no doubt the only option would be euthanasia, as she could not live a life of any comfort or longevity as she is currently. Thankfully however, all her conditions are treatable, allowing Poppy to have a pain free, happy and long life, but at a cost.

“Poppy has multiple orthopaedic injuries but is a happy and loving dog considering the amount of pain she must be in. She has had multiple homes in her short life and although we are unable to get her veterinary history, I believe that her orthopaedic disease is the reason she has had so many homes Samantha Lane, Veterinary Surgeon BVSc BSAVA PGCert(SAS) MRCVS.

Ferne has undertaken to fund Poppy’s first operation this week, to relieve some of Poppy’s immediate pain.  However, after that she will still require subsequent operations, medication for inflammation and pain, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to strengthen her muscles and joints, which will cost approximately £4,000.  To urgently raise the money for this, we are asking for your help by donating to ‘Poppy’s Appeal

Whatever you can donate will help towards giving Poppy a whole new life ahead which can be a long, happy and comfortable one, which this top dog undoubtedly deserves.


Surge in abandoned kittens and pregnant cats

Due to a surge of abandoned kittens and pregnant cats, Ferne is desperately needing help to expand its services to provide a Special Care Cat Unit to cope with the high volume of cats needing help.

In the last month alone, over 20 abandoned kittens have been taken into the care of Ferne Animal Sanctuary.

Every year the problem becomes more severe, and with kitten season in full flow, sadly this year has already reached a critical level and Ferne is struggling to accommodate the ever increasing numbers. This also includes kittens from heavily pregnant mothers, also dumped with less than days to go until they gave birth.

It has become so bad now that they are quite literally bursting at the seams. Both catteries are full and extreme measures have been required in the form of using the Sanctuary’s animal surgery area, which is far from ideal.

Tara Nirula, Rehoming Manager is appealing to anyone considering adopting a feline into their family: ‘We are urgently looking for loving homes with people who can give these kittens a second chance in life. The owners must have patience and commitment but most of all, lots of love to give.’

If you can help with either a donation of money or the offer of a good home, we’d love to hear from you.

Anyone wishing to adopt kittens is asked to call the Sanctuary on 01460 65214 to discuss suitability and to arrange a viewing appointment. A pre-home check will be conducted before any animals are released into the adopter’s care.

If you are unable to adopt a kitten from Ferne but you would like to help, you can donate towards their Special Care Cat Unit appeal. Steph Sterndale-Bennett, Fundraising Manager explains more: ‘We are currently undertaking a 12-month appeal for funds to help us build a special care unit which will enable us to accommodate more cats and kittens in need of extra TLC in the years to come. This is becoming increasingly important as we are finding ourselves at maximum capacity more and more frequently.’

The Special Care Cat Unit will cost £195,000 to build and will complement the top class care that Ferne Animal Sanctuary provides to the animals 365 days of the year. To donate please visit the ‘Donate Now’ page of our website.