Looking back at Mayhew in 2020 and how we've made a difference.
"Over the last year, each of us have felt the profound effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Be it the loss of a loved one, the health challenges far too many faced, or the disproportionate life changes everyone has experienced, it has been an overwhelming process of grief, growth and also of gratitude.
I have heard from so many of you about the impact of having a pet with you at home during the isolation of lockdown; you have mentioned the therapeutic effect of having your animal by your side and the solace and comfort you found in their company. This effect is something Mayhew strives to deliver day in and day out to people throughout the UK and beyond."
At Mayhew, we know that our cats and dogs make a powerful contribution to our mental and physical wellbeing. They can provide a reason to get out of the house in the morning, are a comforting sofa companion as long evenings stretch out and give us strength and resilience when times get tough. While Mayhew has long worked to protect the bond humans and animals share, never has that bond felt more critical – or more in need of protecting – than in 2020.
When the pandemic hit, Mayhew’s first priority was ensuring that our elderly and more at-risk service users and their companion animals were safe. Our Animal Welfare Officers (AWOs) immediately called round to check in and find out what support we could provide. People were worried about getting vital supplies for their cat or dog while isolating and how their pet would receive treatment when local vet services were reduced. We began delivering bespoke care packages including pet food, medical treatments and other supplies to people in at-risk groups who were shielding and to homeless shelters.
“Of course, no one predicted what 2020 would bring, but in many ways the work we did remained the same. We’ve worked hard for over 20 years to establish ourselves in the community as the place for pet owners to turn when crisis hits. Because we are so trusted, and people know we are non-judgmental, it meant they felt they could pick up the phone and call us. We quickly understood the struggles people had in lockdown and could adapt our services, approaching the right networks and hubs and delivering support and supplies to them, as well as to our individual clients.”
At the start of 2020, Angela was diagnosed with breast cancer and her beloved cat Kevin started to have problems with his eyes. Lockdown meant both of their treatment options were very limited and Angela was advised that euthanising Kevin might be her only option. Heartbroken and determined to not lose her companion, Angela called our Animal Welfare Officer AJ. Mayhew’s vets and AJ were able to help Angela manage Kevin’s frequent visits and ongoing care safely despite the restrictions, including supporting her as she made the difficult decision to remove one of his eyes. He is now living a happy and pain free life.
We know that interaction with animals, whether they’re your own pets or otherwise, can have a huge impact on quality of life, so Mayhew’s TheraPaws™ programme has fought to continue providing this for people in hospitals, care homes and mental health facilities throughout 2020. A week before the national lockdown in March, we made the difficult decision to pause all in-person visits for the safety of venue residents and our TheraPaws teams and quickly trialled virtual visits over Zoom. We also reached out to NHS key workers to see if a video call with one of our four-legged therapists would provide some comfort to them and their families – and were delighted to find that it did.
“TheraPaws gave my girls something to look forward to each week when the whole world came to a stop. It gave them enjoyment seeing the dogs and allowed them to focus on something positive.”
In the face of many challenges, we fought to keep our vital Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programme going for the health and welfare of London’s feral cats. Battersea recognised our expertise and awarded a grant to target five postcode areas. In just six months, despite Covid-19 restrictions, we neutered 237 cats, helped many more with health issues and rehomed or reunited strays with loving owners. We supported local people who monitor feral cats with supplies and advice across the year. In June 2020, our annual survey* revealed that only 51% of Londoners understand the term ‘feral cat’, so we launched our Feral AdvoCAT campaign to educate a wider audience about these animals and give guidance on how to help local colonies.
“Feral cats have been badly affected by the impact of the pandemic on animal welfare: their food sources were reduced due to restaurants being closed, and restricted neutering programmes meant a huge boom in breeding, which led to even more competition for resources. We also saw many more heavily pregnant cats and sickly kittens needing urgent attention.”
Our Animal Care and Veterinary teams have been true animal heroes in 2020 as they continued to provide the care, treatment and stimulation our on-site cats and dogs needed. Mayhew quickly adapted its rehoming processes to work within government restrictions, never giving up on the cats and dogs who deserve a safe and cosy home. We began virtual interviews and home visits, and our Animal Welfare Officers safely delivered animals to their new families.
When the first coronavirus restrictions were announced in March 2020, we were inundated with offers to foster cats and dogs. We recruited eight fantastic new cat and kitten foster carers, and many of our own staff members and students took animals home temporarily so they wouldn’t spend lockdown in the shelter.
Mayhew’s Rehome from Home scheme enables dogs to find a new home without needing to enter the shelter environment. Eighteen-month-old Dexter joined the scheme after his original owners found themselves unable to cope and could no longer look after him. They cared for Dexter greatly and wanted to stay involved in his adoption process and meet his new owners. Dexter is an incredibly friendly and energetic young dog but he is also anxious, so he benefited from being able to remain in a familiar home environment throughout. We were relieved to be able to help with his adoption before the first lockdown came in.
Mayhew’s on-site Community Vet Clinic may have had to close its doors to external clients for much of 2020, but the vets, vet nurses and support team have found new and innovative ways to work. The clinic staff worked closely with our Animal Welfare Officers to treat stray and feral cats, who needed us more than ever, and the team also managed to continue student training, taking on one new vet nurse student, Raquel, in November. We were proud in the early days of the first lockdown to be able to donate our medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) to local care homes during the height of the PPE crisis. As well as conducting virtual consults, reassuring our welfare clients by phone and establishing a new medicine delivery service.
Despite a three-month lockdown in Kabul from March, Mayhew Afghanistan had some incredible achievements in 2020: we neutered 9,193 dogs and vaccinated 12,210 against rabies. And the Mayhew Georgia team managed to surpass their target to neuter and vaccinate more than 1,000 dogs in 2020.
Two new clinics, VetLife and Vetex, came on board, providing more Mayhew-trained vets to deliver the team’s programmes in Tbilisi. The team also partnered with Doggie Doc to trial a mobile Trap, Vaccinate, Neuter, Return (TVNR) project in regions outside the capital, which will be a focus of 2021. Our Communications team supported Mayhew Georgia by developing and launching a new website, in both English and Georgian, to help spread the word and raise income on the ground.
“The pandemic has definitely made a difference to both animals and people here. With most of the locals staying inside, we’ve noticed that the dogs are coming out onto the roads and streets more. Before, a lot of them used to hide away under containers, damaged cars and bridges. This has made things easier for our team members when they are out catching and surveying the dogs. With restaurants and other food sources closing, locals have felt more compassion towards the stray dogs and we’ve noticed a lot of people feeding them regularly. However, we have experienced a few cases where we have had to reassure locals who were worried about dogs transmitting Covid-19 to humans. We were called out to help two dogs that had a severe skin disease and the locals were very frightened, mistakenly believing that the dogs were infected with the coronavirus.”
Tiny pup Roki was brought into our Animal Birth Control Centre in Kabul by a concerned local lady after she spotted some children dragging him along the street. Roki received care from our vets and then recuperated with foster carer Moqadas, who is also one of the drivers for our Trap, Vaccinate, Neuter, Return programme. We were delighted to hear that not only has Roki been doing very well, but Moqadas and his family have decided to make his living arrangements permanent and have adopted him!
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