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All for a good paws: how animals from projects and charities throughout the UK are improving people’s lives

4th Hydref 2021

Furry and feathered friends across the UK are lending a paw or a wing to help people most in need and today we celebrate the amazing stories of animals coming together with humans to make their lives better.

Cariad Pet Therapy

In homage to our friends from the animal kingdom that make the world a better place, on World Animal Day 2021 (Monday October 4th), The National Lottery is highlighting the wonderful stories of how animals through some of its funded projects and charities throughout the UK are putting their best paw forward to help people in need across the country.

World Animal Day is an annual event which aims to raise the status of animals around the world. National Lottery funding goes towards a wide range of animal related projects – from city and community farms; funding the training of rescue dogs that help emergency services during natural disasters; projects that support people with disabilities and behavioural issues; and projects that provide animal assisted therapy – to support people and improve their wellbeing.

Over the last five years alone, The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded more than £17 million to around almost 200 animal-related projects across the UK which support people most in need.

Cariad Pet Therapy

Among the National Lottery funded charities sharing their story today is Cariad Pet Therapy in South Wales. The Pembrokeshire-based Community Interest Company was set up in 2018 to provide pet therapy visits in a range of settings, from schools and hospitals to workplaces and care homes.

Cariad (the Welsh word for ‘love’) have 44 pet owners and therapy dogs on their books, working with some of society’s most vulnerable and isolated people.

They provide visits throughout West and South Wales and received a National Lottery grant of £9,480 in January 2020 to extend their visits to people deemed to be socially isolated in the community who can no longer look after a dog themselves. The project called ‘Dogs on your Doorstep’ was inspired by the sad figure that 75% of women and two-thirds of men in Wales over-65 live alone.

Cariad also run a Pet Food Bank for people in ‘pet food poverty’. Between January and July 2021 alone, they have donated more than 40,710 pet meals to people who are struggling to feed their animals.

Co-founder Christine Thomas said: “The dogs go in, they help people to experience the love of a dog again, the visits help people to engage and to have companionship, this can encourage recuperation and recovering and prevent loneliness. The demand for this service coming out of lockdown has increased.

“Owning a dog or being in the company of a dog helps to lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress levels, increases the feel-good hormones and helps you feel happier – a real mood booster.”

Stable Life

One of the charities putting their best hoof forward in Scotland is a horse charity in Selkirk called Stable Life. Based in Dryden Farm, in 2020, Stable Life was awarded £120,000 from The National Lottery to provide Equine Assisted Learning to children and young people aged 10 to 18 with a range of social, emotional, and behavioural issues.

Cindy Davie – a Team Leader of the project – said: “A lot of the time, children are being referred because of issues through school and they don't particularly feel comfortable sitting and talking with people who are in their school.

“What we do is all about how to feel connection – we work with a lot of children who have experienced some sort of attachment disorder or trauma within their childhood.

“Just for them to be able to be around and have that sensory stuff - brushing their mane and their tail or grooming the ponies – makes a big difference for them feeling an emotional connection with the animals and gives them a sense of calm and purpose – it’s life changing for young people to experience that.”

Wag and Company

In Hexham, England, a charity called Wag and Company is helping to reduce isolation and improve the wellbeing of older and vulnerable people through dog visits. With the support of over £200,000 from The National Lottery, the Northumberland based charity has been able to fund their home visiting service to vulnerable and isolated people, including those with dementia. The charity was launched in 2016 and has since thrived, with over 76,763 friend visits since its conception.

Chair and Operations Director, Diane Morton, said: “Alzheimer’s in older dog lovers is something I feel very personally about. My dad had Vascular Dementia and he didn't know me, but he knew my black Labrador, Harry.

“It's the love of a dog that people have in common, and it comes from your heart. You can share that emotional connection with the people we visit to the volunteers.

“It can result in the most priceless and precious relationships that exist for a lifetime.”

Friends of Assisi

In May 2020, The Friends of Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Conlig, Bangor, Northern Ireland were awarded £9,000 from The National Lottery so they could continue to run their Community Outreach Scheme. The scheme, which has been running since October 2017, delivers pet supplies to homeless or disadvantaged people in the Ards and North Down area whose pet is often their only companion and their lifeline.

Assisi’s Community Outreach Scheme aims to keep as many companion animals as possible in their homes and with their owners, helping reduce additional stress by providing food and supplies for those with animals, who may not be able to provide for them during the pandemic.

Anna Morton has worked for the organisation for two years, and has always had a deep affection for all animals.

She said: “We work with a lot of people who have been involved in so many different struggles – domestic abuse, financial struggles, homelessness – and animals add such a comfort.

“It’s the companionship – for a lot of people, their pet is their life and gives so much joy and happiness.

“One woman we helped was living on toast – she had no electricity most of the time, and just wanted to make sure her animals were okay as they provided her with so much comfort. The thought of having to surrender them would have destroyed her – she would have been so isolated and lonely.”

David Knott, Interim CEO at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, these projects and the incredible animals they work with are changing people’s lives. Whether helping to improve mental health, reduce loneliness or providing a physical support, they are boosting people’s wellbeing and confidence so that they can better prosper and thrive.”

More than £30 million goes to good causes from The National Lottery across the country every week, making vital projects like these possible.