By  Ann Evans

WG surgeryThere’s often a feeling of sadness when visiting an animal sanctuary, even though you know that these animals are the lucky ones, safe and secure with food, veterinary care, regular exercise and kindness it can still be a heart-wrenching experience because they don’t have that one-to-one sense of belonging within a loving family home.


So it’s a real joy to visit the 52-acre headquarters of Wood Green, The Animals Charity,  in Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire and experience such a happy ‘family day out’ feel with its amenities and cheerful atmosphere.


The charity was founded more than 90 years ago in 1924, and has worked hard to create such a lovely environment for its animals, its staff and the general public. It takes in more than 5,000 lost and unwanted animals each year. They arrive through various sources such as the police and local authorities,  other rescue centres and, of course, through the general public.  Nearly a third of these animals will require extensive veterinary treatment upon arrival.


To take care of all these animals, there are vets on site every day, as well as resident veterinary nurses and surgery facilities to treat the animals coming into care.




Take Pixie a 6-year-old British Blue cat for example. Pixie arrived at Wood Green last October and she soon stole the hearts of the charity’s cat section staff. However, she had a sneezing problem and in the days and weeks that followed the charity became more and more concerned about the cat’s health. Investigations discovered a nasal lump, which was feared to be a sign of cancer.

Exploratory surgery proved inconclusive, so the charity took the decision to send Pixie to leading experts at the Animal Health Trust in Suffolk where she underwent a CT scan. This revealed the lump in her nose was actually tissue growing over an ingested blade of grass. On New Year’s Eve Pixie has the offending flora removed. The case highlights the importance of getting your pet insured, as her medical costs totalled nearly £2,000.

Jane Harrup, deputy manager of cat welfare at Wood Green, said: “Luckily, Wood Green was able to cover her expensive hi-tech scans and her operation, for something that thankfully ended up being less malignant than we feared – but the condition was still painful and unpleasant for Pixie. We are absolutely thrilled she has been patched up and has finally been able to go home with her adoring new owners.”


Like most animal welfare charities, Wood Green aren’t eligible for Government or Lottery funding. They rely totally on donations, fund raising, legacies, and of course their own business expertise.

At Godmanchester, there’s a restaurant, a gift shop, even a conference centre whose profits are ploughed back into the care of the animals. In 1990 they also purchased their first wind turbine at a cost of £175,000, and now boast a newer more efficient model, which produces electricity for the National Grid. Legacies are also a vital factor in ensuring the continued animal care at the shelters. At Wood Green 50% of their income comes from legacies.
Just over two years ago they were able to open up a new state-of-the-art veterinary surgery and kennel buildings which were desperately needed to cope with the ever increasing workload.




The new surgery boasts two operating theatres, pre and post-operative rooms, a digital X-ray room, modern clinical examination rooms and a public reception area. This provides a clean, bright and spacious environment, and with the latest advances in veterinary technology it enables the charity to meet the highest standards for the care for the hundreds of sick and injured animals that come into Wood Green every year.


The new kennels, along with a new puppy block, are the best in kennel design. They are stainless steel with glass fronts, tiled floors and under-floor heating, plus double glazing to reduce noise levels and natural light filters. The individual kennels are designed so the dogs will not be able to see each other, so reducing stress. While outside there is a range of gardens with different surfaces including astro-turf.


The whole project is eco-friendly and includes solar panels, photo-voltaic cells, air sources heating and rainwater harvesting. And it was officially opened by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester in September 2012.


The cattery has been built in true Feng Shui style, providing an aura of peace and tranquillity for its cats. There’s a small animal area for guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, chinchillas and birds plus a new bunnery for its rabbits. While in the field area you can visit the larger animals such as horses, goats, sheep, pigs, and alpacas. Not all the animals are for re-homing however, such as the horses which are used for Riding for the Disabled.


School parties make regular visits, families visit for days out, and the plight of the animals is kept in the public eye with staff going out and giving talks on the work of the shelter.


The re-homing procedures and criteria are meticulous. Great care is taken in making sure pets and families, along with their existing family pets, are all well-matched. Sometimes however, some animals aren’t suitable for re-homing due to being too dangerous, too injured or too sick.  But happily, through the dedication of their veterinary and behaviour team the majority of the animals brought into the shelter are successfully re-homed.

Wood Green

A spokesperson paid tribute to the many people who make it all possible. She said: “As well as dedicated staff, we have a great team of volunteers and dog walkers. And of course the bands of fund raisers who support us up and down the country. We are very grateful to all these people.”


Wood Green, The Animals Charity,
King’s Bush Farm,
London Road,
Cambs. PE29 2NH
Tel: 08701 90 40 90.


There are also shelters in North London, Hertfordshire and Northampton.
To find out more please visit:
Photos courtesy of Wood Green