HLN meets… Jill Neary, Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter
We find out what really goes behind their rehoming process and Jill shares some stories that’ll warm your heart.
A dog is for life, not just for… well, any occasion, really.
And that goes for every type of animal. It’s so easy to be drawn in by those puppy dog eyes and fluffy little kittens, but having a pet comes with a lot of hard work.
Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter in Benton currently has 92 animals in their care, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and all their permanent resident farm animals. Many of these four-legged friends have been rescued for several different reasons – whether it be because their previous family couldn’t cope, their owner sadly passed away or they were found wandering the streets.
The Dog and Cat Shelter’s rehoming team are always searching for caring adopters who can give their animals somewhere to call their forever homes. But there’s more to it than just picking an animal that you think is cute.
That’s why we caught up with the Senior Rehoming Manager, Jill Neary – who is the cat’s whiskers at finding the right family for their beloved animals – to discover what the rehoming process really involves…
What made you want to get into this industry?
I’ve always loved animals and have been passionate about their welfare. I became more aware of Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter’s work when my little dog was stolen many years ago. After visiting the shelter weekly to see if he was there – and seeing all the other animals looking for a new start – I made a promise to do more to help. After working many years as a pub landlady, an unexpected redundancy left me in a position to explore new avenues and, when I saw this job advertised, I knew it was meant to be.
What do you love most about your job?
There’s nothing in the world that beats the energy of watching an animal go from the kennels and through the door to begin their new lives. When you receive that first picture of them, typically snoozing all snug on a sofa, it’s the best feeling ever. I’m lucky enough to be part of the most amazing team who all play their part in making that happy ending possible.
And what do you find most challenging?
When an animal comes back. We’re human, we don’t always get it right and it hurts when an animal comes back to us. It’s hard to not feel personally responsible and that can be tough. There can be many reasons why a rehome is not successful and I like to think we support our families no matter what. You just have to turn that disappointment into determination and make sure you get it right next time.
What checks do you run when rehoming an animal?
Just like people, every animal is an individual, so the checks and home requirements are different for each rehome. The first step is us assessing application forms, of which there can often be hundreds, and carrying out telephone interviews to gather as much information about our potential adopters to try and ensure we find the perfect match every time.
We only rehome to people over the age of 18 and always need to see basic forms of IDs and things like landlord permission to keep a pet in rented accommodation. We always like to see everyone in the household meet the animal with us at the shelter, but Covid made us explore and re-evaluate the way we rehome so we like to think we are open to thinking outside the box, if it means our animals find their perfect forever homes.
What is the most common breed of dog in your shelter?
A decade ago, it was true that the shelters were full of Staffies, but it has been wonderful to be a part of the welfare world as we witness the change in attitudes towards this fabulous breed. We actually don’t see too many come through our doors anymore. We see a lot of Lurchers but, honestly, I think people would be surprised to see the variety of breeds we see coming into our care.
Why should our readers rescue an animal instead of getting a newborn?
We have animals of all ages, breeds and temperaments at the shelter and often rehome kittens and puppies. We have four Lurcher puppies looking for their homes right now. All animals deserve a loving home and a family to call their own. The animals in our care have typically already lost at least one family and we would love nothing more than to see them all curled up on a sofa enjoying their very own happy ever after.
What animals have been in your care the longest?
Our longest stay dog currently came into our care in September. A beautiful boy named Rox is a Bullmastiff Lurcher cross. He’s only two years old and is incredibly strong. He often doesn’t realise his size and can get quite over-excited. Rox has actually spent a month in foster care but, sadly, came back after it didn’t work out, so his stay with us appears a little longer than it actually has been. His foster family found his physical needs difficult to manage but loved him dearly and he has come back to us with a wonderful positive report on how fabulous he was, so this will help us enormously in finding him a new home.
Our longest term cat is a beautiful queen called Bella: one-year-old, who came into our care in November. She was gifted to us as her owner was allergic and we soon found out she was pregnant. So, Bella has had her kittens, is a wonderful mama and is now beginning her journey to a new life. The team have found her a perfect family and she will be making her way into her new home shortly.
What’s your favourite rehoming story?
Oh my word, how would I ever choose?! They’re all incredible. I think the rehomes where an animal transforms into their true selves are always special. We had one little dog called Izzy. She was gifted to us with a heart-wrenching story and had come from an incredibly challenging and distressing home environment. She was clearly an unhappy dog who had become snappy and withdrawn. We found out she had also been suffering from untreated arthritis, so she must have been in so much pain.
The most wonderful family applied for her, who didn’t necessarily tick the boxes in terms of what we initially thought would suit little Izzy best, but there was no denying their love and commitment to help this little pup who, at this point, they had never even met. We took a risk and invited them in to meet and, let’s just say, the rest is history. They have been perfect for each other and Izzy is now the happiest little dog and loved beyond measure, enjoying incredible adventures including regular campervan holidays. We receive regular updates from the family and the joy simply shines through the screen. Izzy has found true happiness and I couldn’t be happier for her.