Celia Hammond Animal Trust (C.H.A.T)

Thousands of cats and dogs have benefited from the work of the Celia Hammond Animal Trust (C.H.A.T) since it was formally founded in 1986. The foundation for this charity dates back to even before then to the mid 1960s when Celia Hammond (then a celebrity top English model) became involved in rescuing, neutering and rehoming stray and unwanted animals. This was something of a revolutionary approach at the time. In the 1960s and 1970s through to mid 1980s the general opinion was that euthanasia was the only way to deal with the fast growing population of feral cats on English streets.

Celia's pioneering work involved neutering and rehoming these stray cats instead. This was certainly not a popular opinion in those days and many battles had to be fought with local authorities and health departments to convince them that feral cats can be controlled through neutering. (In fact because of the guile and awesome reproductive capabilities of feral cats, neutering is now seen as perhaps the only way to control their numbers. Otherwise the cats can simply breed faster than they can be caught and killed.) However, before neutering and rehoming could be accepted by the public, the public also had to change their view of feral cats as disease-spreading beasts little better than vermin. It took several years of hard work before the authorities and the larger part of general public became convinced that feral cats deserve our help.

Celia Hammond strongly believed that the huge population of homeless cats was not only made up of the offspring of feral cats. A large number was due to unneutered domestic cats whose kittens then ended up on the street to fend for themselves. Therefore, a priority of C.H.A.T was to set up a low-cost neuter and vaccination clinic. The first of these clinics opened in Lewisham, South East London, in October 1995 and the second four years later in East London. The trust hopes to open a third clinic in Kent shortly. To date the clinics have neutered over 110,000 animals, preventing the birth of hundreds of thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens. Over 157,000 animals have also received vaccinations. Both clinics operate a 24-hour rescue/rehoming service and are under continuous pressure trying to cope with demand. Indeed, the first day the Lewisham clinic opened it was fully booked.

In addition to the clinics the trust runs animal sanctuaries in different locations. The biggest of these is Celia's Sanctuary in East Sussex, which occupies 12 acres of beautiful countryside. The sanctuary has around 300 animals at any given time, mostly cats rescued from the streets of London. Many of these are found new homes but some, through age, bad health or aggression are not suitable for rehoming . Because no animal which comes under C.H.A.T protection is ever unnecessarily killed, such cats become permanent residents in the sanctuary. The sanctuary was awarded the Pet Plan Most Deserving Cat Rescue Shelter Award in 1993 for its rescue and rehoming work.

Last year the trust undertook the huge job of rescuing homeless cats from the 2012 Olympic demolition site in London - an area of some 800 hectares. Despite continuing run-ins with the company in charge of demolition, to date they have managed to rescue 186 cats. Although the demolition company promised full cooperation during the early negotiations, this was not always forthcoming. The rounding up feral cats from an area of 800 hectares has been a huge job and as the number of cats diminishes the harder it gets to catch them. However, the good news is that at the time of writing this article the Trust has negotiated to obtain more time to finish the job. Celia is personally intent on capturing a rakish black tom known as Black Jack, who like McCavity the mystery cat, has a talent for being absent at crucial moments. Many of the 186 cats captured so far have already been rehomed. Some truly feral cats have been found places - for example in the barn of a Dartford farm, but as the workers of the trust frequently point out, many of the cats which they collect are not really feral cats but domestic cats which have been abandoned and which happily settle back home with humans.

Celia Hammond has received a number of awards for her work to improve animal welfare. The most coveted of those being The Richard Martin Award (the RSPCA's most prestigious award), which she received in 2004, and the Linda McCartney Award for Animal Welfare which she received in 2007.

For more information about C.H.A.T. go to: http://www.celiahammond.org/

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