A dedicated RSPCA worker loves her job so much she has adopted five dogs and six cats into her family – while she works tirelessly to help so many other unwanted pets on a daily basis.
Kay Hawthorn is the manager of the RSPCA Wirral and Chester branch and lives on-site so she can offer around-the-clock care for all the unwanted or injured animals brought into her care by the charity’s inspectors.
Her latest addition to the family came earlier this year when a dying pup was found dumped at the back of Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool on 6 February.
Terrified and unable to move – due to having two deformed front legs – the pet was lucky to be spotted by a member of the public and was rescued by RSPCA inspector Joanne McDonald.
Sadly, this kind of abandonment is on the increase and the RSPCA has seen a shocking 25% rise in the number of abandonment incidents along with a 13% rise in neglect incidents being dealt with by rescue teams.
The animal rescue charity believes the cost of living crisis is leading to more people dumping or neglecting their pets and fear this will become much worse. In response, they have launched their Christmas campaign to help raise funds to continue their vital work.
Fortunately, the puppy was found and the inspector took the bulldog-cross to be cared for by Kay at the animal centre, based in Wallasey, while she launched an investigation to find the person responsible.
But within hours of helping the emaciated pup, Kay had become smitten and she decided because he would need ongoing operations that she would adopt him to help him on his journey back to full health and named him Frankie.
He remains fearful of new people but is slowly building up his confidence and is like Kay’s shadow – following her everywhere.
Frankie now enjoys snuggling up and playing with his new canine family featuring Maisie, a West Highland White cross aged 12, Eva a German Shepherd aged 12, Bertie a Shih Tzu aged 18, as well as Toots another Shih Tzu aged 4.
Kay said, “There is no doubt if Frankie had not been spotted when he was he would have suffered a lingering death from starvation or hypothermia. He was terrified and as he was unable to move from the secluded spot where he was left – it is such a callous way to treat an animal.
“He was so nervous in our care – he was curled up in a ball and was reluctant to move, which we often find with dogs who have been dumped because clearly they are just so frightened. (pictured)
“He was also found to be in an emaciated body condition – with a body score of 1 out of 9 (1 being the lowest) and had flaky skin. But within two weeks in my care he has almost doubled his weight to 8.2 kilos and his skin condition has been treated.
“I took him home to help him settle away from a kennel environment intending to foster him until a home could be found – but he just really bonded with me and who could resist those lovely eyes.”
Frankie underwent an operation to correct one front leg at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital and was due to undergo the same on the other leg – but thanks to a good diet it healed itself and he loves nothing more than running around and playing with his new canine pals.
Each of the other dogs Kay owns has a similar sad story as to how they came to be in RSPCA care – but all have now landed firmly on their paws.
The first dog to move in with Kay (53) and husband Ian (56) was Toots – an eight-week-old puppy who in her short life had three broken ribs on one side, three fractured ribs on the other and a fractured jaw in two places caused by her owner.
She was rescued as part of an investigation into her owner in 2018 who later appeared in court.
Tiny Toots was in a lot of pain from her injuries at such a young age and it was feared she may never recover – but she flourished in Kay’s care.
She was too young to be away from her mum and had to be syringe-fed puppy milk through the night at Kay’s home. The new mother and daughter pair soon bonded over feeding times and it wasn’t long before Toots became part of the family. Kay’s husband Ian also played a large part in her rehabilitation, often carrying her around inside his jacket; they are still inseparable now.
Next, came neglected Eva who was found to be living in poor conditions in a home in Cheshire in 2019 with an owner who was struggling to cope. He was living in squalor and Eva had urine stains across her coat from laying down in her own filth and a skin condition which meant half her body was bald.
She was taken to Kay who helped to regularly bathe Eva to combat her skin issues and after a few days of rehabilitation the pair had become inseparable and as Kay was worried about Eva finding a suitable home due to her age – she adopted her after recently losing her own German Shepherd.
Then Maise, aged 12, came along and she was also found dumped in a graveyard – this time in Ramsbottom, near Bury, Lancashire, on October 18 in 2020.
She had such awful matted fur that vets were unable to establish what breed of dog she was until they shaved it all from her body. Her eye was so infected it was popping out of her head and she had to have an operation to remove it. (pictured right)
But she was soon transformed thanks to the expert veterinary staff at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital and was then placed in the care of Kay.
She was not the most amenable dog and had no confidence in people and was possessive around food.
Kay was again worried there would be little interest in people wanting to rehome a one-eyed cantankerous dog – so she welcomed her into her home. She has since mellowed and loves human company and interaction
Then a few months later came along old boy Bertie, aged 18, who was rescued from a Lancashire home where he was found in a similar matted state to Maise.
He was elderly, deaf and almost completely blind when he went into the care of the Wirral branch and was feisty with staff.
But with love and care he came round and became what Kay described as “the sweetest thing.” He sits quite happily to have his eye drops put in and he needs to be clipped regularly to prevent his coat from becoming matted again, something he now accepts with no problems.
He loves his new life and his favourite thing to do is sit in the middle of the garden with his head held high just appreciating the fresh air and being loved.
As she was worried no-one would want to take him and he would be left in kennels she decided to offer him a perfect retirement home.
As well as the dogs, Kay has also taken six elderly cats into the clan over the years – they are Nutty, Thomas, Wiggles, Jaeger, Tubbs and Rex. All are aged 10+ and were semi-feral so were getting overlooked in the cattery as people opted for the younger friendlier felines. Now their semi-feral days are firmly behind them as they now all prefer homely comforts and love affection and to lounge around the home.
Kay added, “I did begin to foster all the dogs with a view to getting them used to how to live in a home environment so they would be adopted easier. It seems though I have a few failed fosters now!
“In each case I offer them some homely comforts to help them recuperate from various ordeals and then I end up falling in love and they end up staying! I have always had four dogs but obviously, some have died along the way of old age and then more have come along.
“Some animals come to us who I know will get adopted easily – I tend to take on the ones who are likely to be more problematic and who I fear will struggle to find their perfect forever home.”
She said husband Ian, a team manager at an energy company, is a great support as well as her three daughters Charlotte (29), Shelly (32) – who have each adopted a cat from the branch and Ali (31) – who has a dog – along with her nine grandchildren who love visiting nans house and meeting all the animals. The children love helping with the animals and know from a young age to treat them with the care and respect they deserve.
Kay, who has been centre manager for 15 years and looks after dozens of cats and dogs on a daily basis, said, “My husband comes home from work and will find another addition to the family but he understands that they really need help so he is a great support.
“I know I take the job home with me quite literally but I wouldn’t have it any other way – they are all a delight to have.”
Animal Rescue Officer Katie Glenn, who took Eva into the care of the branch, said the inspectorate team held Kay in such high esteem for the dedication she has for her work.
Katie said, “She absolutely lives and breathes her work – she is fantastic and I can’t sing praises high enough. She always goes above and beyond to help out.
“She works with animals during the day at the centre and can’t really leave work as she lives on site. She then has her own rescues at home – even then she will always come to our aid out-of-hours if we have an injured pet which needs looking after.
She has years of experience helping animals in need and the facilities to care for them,
“She is amazing – you just have to look at her pets – they have had such a rough ride but now are thriving and so, so happy.”
The RSPCA is appealing to people who are in the position to donate to please ‘Join the Christmas Rescue ’ Any contribution could make the difference between life and death for animals this winter.”
- £6 a month could help towards vaccinating an abandoned pet we have just rescued
- £8 a month could help towards rehabilitate a neglected dog or cat, allowing them to find a new home
- £10 a month could help towards providing essential warmth and shelter to mistreated puppies and kittens
- £15 could help towards nourishing food for animals in our care
- £20 could help towards pain relief to neglected and suffering animals
- £30 could help towards supplying a newly rescued dog with their primary course of
- £60 could help towards keeping an animal rescuer on the road this winter
- £100 could help towards keeping our hospitals and centres stocked with specialist medicines this winter