A WARRINGTON animal shelter is reminding members of the community to ‘paws for thought’ this festive season before buying an animal as a Christmas gift.

Warrington Animal Welfare (WAW), based in Slutchers Lane, takes care of dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs who don’t have a family of their own and the shelter is urging people to consider animals as life-long members of the family.

Julie Pickett, trustee of WAW, said: “We have a close-down in terms of adopting animals because we don’t want people to just get a pet for Christmas.

“We stop around December 20 and hold fire until January.

“It’s not a good time to invite a pet into your home, it’s too busy a time- we’ve all seen the adverts.”

The charity has pets, especially dogs, being placed in their care throughout the year which Julie says is upsetting to see in the run up to Christmas when animals should be in a loving home.

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She said: “It’s awful to say but it’s almost like a pre-Christmas clear out.

“It doesn’t help that so many people are breeding ‘posh’ dogs now and the poor dogs in the shelter keep getting left in here.”

Julie recalled a tragic story from earlier in the year when a man arrived at the shelter with his 14-year-old dog, Bob.

The man told the shelter to take the dog, or he would leave him tied to the gate.

Julie recalled: “We did take the dog and did an appeal for him and you wouldn’t believe the amount of offers we had.

“We found him the most fabulous home in the countryside.”

Unlike Bob, the shelter receives a large majority of their animals from owners who are devastated to give up their pets.

This can range from owners who are too old to look after an animal properly, people who are moving into sheltered accommodation, or have health issues and need time in hospital.

Julie added: “A lot of people also rent these days and they end up moving to properties where they are not allowed pets- that is our biggest one.”

People are advised to think if getting a pet is right for them before rushing into the decision.

Those dedicated to looking after an animal should also visit shelters to see if they can give an animal a new home.

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For members of the community wanting to help the animal shelter in other ways this Christmas, WAW have plenty of fundraising and donation ideas.

Julie explained: “Something we have done this year for the first time is what we have called ‘paws for thought’.

“We’ve suggested to people that rather than sending Christmas cards, they can do a donation to the charity in the form of food, or cash.

“We can’t operate without volunteers so if anybody wanted to give their time instead, that’s the best thing you can give really.”

The shelter’s vet bills are £40,000 per year as they are a pro-neutering charity and microchip, vaccinate and neuter every animal in their care.

It receives no government funding and relies entirely on the generosity of the community to help fund their vital work and give animals a second chance.