Meet the mother of three who runs a sanctuary for unwanted pets in her spare time

The end of January and Easter time are triggers for dogs and rabbits, bought as pets, to go unwanted and offloaded.

They are hopefully ultimately rehomed and for one young woman in North Yorkshire these are times when her resources are stretched to the limit.

Animal lover Lucie Holmes runs Lucie’s Animal Rescue in Thirsk where she homes between 150-200 animals and birds in her family home and garden. Lucie said she has one aim.

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“We care about all animals’ lives and giving them all a better life with people who will care for them. While the name we have is animal rescue it is rehoming that is the important end goal, making sure every animal has a happy life.”

Lucie juggles looking after animals with her three children

Lucie grew up helping muck out ponies, lambing and showing sheep with a good friend, but said she knew pretty quickly that she couldn’t follow the career she’d originally had in mind.

“When I was younger I was torn between childcare and animals. I had initially thought of going down the veterinary route but the realisation of having to deal with sick animals and in some cases having to have them put down told me I would never have been able to go that way.

“I started fostering animals for other animal care operations and just didn’t feel I was doing enough.

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Lucie Holmes sees a surge in abandoned rabbits after Easter

“The start of what is now Lucie’s Animal Rescue came about when I saw a dog, a springer, advertised as free to a good home on the Gumtree web page and showed my husband Sean.

“The springer looked terrified. Sean told me to just go and get him if it was going to bother me. I just wanted to see the dog safe.”

Lucie said everything that she and her family has done since has snowballed from there.

“I began looking out for dogs that were free to a good home, which would often be because of a change of this, that and the other. Sometimes it is down to people moving house, getting divorced, but I could tell in each case the animals weren’t cared for and that they deserved better.

Lucie's three children, aged between 10 and three, help her with the animals

“We went from dogs and then cats and on to all kinds of animals and birds very quickly and nine years on nearly every room in the house and most of the garden is populated by animals.

"Fortunately, we live in a beautiful area down a country lane with no neighbours.

“The day before we had our third child, Lily, who arrived five weeks early, I had taken on three new dogs, five cats and had rescued 75 hens. Then my waters broke. Sean had to take the boys to school, come to see me in hospital in York, work full-time as he does as a heating engineer and then feed up, bed up and look after all the animals.”

Lucie said that the end of this month is always a difficult time for dogs, with puppies having been given as cute Christmas presents.

“It’s once they have grown a bit, but it’s also a problem time for older dogs. We get a lot of older dogs because people will say they have a puppy and the older dog is struggling.

"It doesn’t make me popular with those who are offloading but I tell them what I think about it. That the younger dog is the one that needs training to adapt.

“I have a good forum and process for rehoming both dogs and cats and they will generally only stay a short while.

“A lot of them need work on socialisation and overcoming anxieties which we give, but having the right new home is the key.

“I try my best to find a match that works and do it the opposite way to most. I get the hopeful rehoming person or family to tell me all about themselves.

“Living arrangements, family life, number of children, what are their ages, work commitments and the home the animal will be going into.

“If people say they want a five-to-eight-year-old dog I tell them it’s not Tesco.

“Others might say they’ve always had a certain breed that has always worked for them, but then I tell them that they might not be in the same place in their lives as they were 15 years ago when it was a puppy. I try to rehome for the dog’s purpose, not the family."

Lucie said Easter is a huge time for the rehoming of rabbits.

“Sadly, rabbits are often considered disposable and they are harder to rehome. The Easter Bunny has a lot to answer for.

“What most don’t know is that they are really intelligent animals that need stimulation such as toys and also need lots of space. They can’t just be kept in a little hutch.

“People will say they are getting rid of their rabbit because their child has got bored. I say that’s not the rabbit’s fault. You’re teaching your child that pets are disposable.

“I’m very happy to rehome rabbits to children as it is very important for children to have animals. It teaches them compassion and care.”

Lucie said her two sons, Charlie and Ben, and three-year-old daughter Lily all have their own roles with the animals.

“Charlie is known on our website as the ferret chief and head bunny handler; Ben is chief kitten cuddler; and Lily is crazy cat girl.

“They are all passionate about animals and Ben has a hedgehog club he has started.

“He uses his pocket money on stamps to send letters to people educating them on what hedgehogs need and how to feed them properly.”

Lucie’s Animal Rescue and new mobile farm she started last year with rescue animals as an educational resource and to raise money for feed isn’t a registered charity.

The majority of its funding is through Lucie’s and Sean’s wages from their day jobs that sees Lucie working as a part-time receptionist and Sean as a heating engineer.