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Big interview: Ron Ayres, Lost Cats, Brighton
8:00am Saturday 28th December 2013 in News
THE ARGUS (TA): How did you get into this thankless line of work?
RON AYRES (RA): I grew up with animals and have always loved cats.
My wife died 13 years ago and I couldn’t face just moping around the house so I decided to see what I could do.
I started helping out and was at the Cats Protection for a while.
I didn’t like the way they were running things so I set up Lost Cats. I built the shed and started taking on abandoned and lost cats and it just went from there really.
TA: A lot of the problems appear to come from irresponsible breeders dumping cats when they can’t sell them. Micro-chipping has been discussed as a solution. What’s your view?
RA: It should be law. It’s as simple as that. Not only would it prevent back street breeders dumping cats and kittens but it would also help reunite lost and injured cats with their owners.
It’s so simple. If I get a cat come in I can scan it myself, call up the database people and the cat can be reunited with its family within a couple of hours.
There was a case earlier this year which I think you featured in The Argus.
We had this lost cat for more than a year but as soon as you featured it in the paper the owner recognised it and they were reunited.
If it had been micro-chipped it would have saved all that pain.
It doesn’t cost much either. I tell people I’ll do it for £10. The vets don’t charge a great deal more and it saves so much money in the long run.
I have signed so many government petitions over the years but they don’t seem to take any notice. I don’t know why? It’s so simple.
TA: Animal charities are often outspoken about the prices at vets. What do you think?
RA: Vet bills are crippling. For small independent charities like ours, it’s really difficult.
I just think they charge too much. They say their overheads are huge but you never see a poor vet do you?
What annoys me is you go in to get something done and they want to have a consultation first which costs extra.
Thankfully we’ve got a good vet at the moment but I know most charge huge amounts.
I think vets earn so much that once a week or so they should visit the various charities and help out for free. Just a little something like that would make such a difference.
TA: You clearly make no money from this and you are well over retirement age. What keeps you going and what is your motivation?
RA: I’m 75 now and I’ve had a number of health problems over the last few years. I was in hospital not so long ago following a heart attack and the doctors told me I had to pack it in.
But I can’t. The only way I’m leaving this place is if I’m carried out feet first.
If I left the place would go under and I would hate to think what would happen to the cats.
The cats are my motivation. There is certainly no financial reward. I have put all my money into this, I’ve got nothing left.
A few weeks ago you featured the mum and her kittens who were dumped in a cardboard box. The kittens were all dead and mother was in a very bad state.
I managed to slowly build her up and we re-homed her with a lovely lady.
She contacted me the other day to tell me how happy they both were. She said the cat had kept her going and that they were now the best of friends. The cat was at death’s door just a few weeks ago so that was lovely to hear.
That’s my motivation.
TA: You must have seen some pretty appalling abuse over the years – is there anything which stands out as being particularly bad?
RA: Yes, I’ve seen some horrific things since I started and it does get to me.
It’s heartbreaking to even think about.
Not so long ago a woman called me to say there was an abandoned cat in her garden. When I got there this cat was in terrible pain. It had obviously been neglected because it was rake thin and covered in fleas. Its leg was broken and it was just laying there. It could have been there for days.
I put him in the car and tried to reassure the poor thing on the way to the vets. Within minutes of arriving he had to be put down.
I just can’t bear to think of animals going through things like this. It keeps me going in a way.
TA: How is the Christmas period for you? Is it busier than usual?
RA: Christmas and the period after is always very busy. A lot of my volunteers can’t work over Christmas which is tough. I completely understand, they have families of their own and I can’t afford to pay them.
People also give cat and kittens as Christmas presents which causes even more problems.
I hear of people buying kittens for their nieces or nephews or brothers or sisters.
A cat is not a Christmas present. It is a commitment and not one which should be decided on without a great deal of thought.
As a result we get a huge increase in the numbers of cats dumped on us after Christmas. We need as much help as we can get.
TA: We hear terrible stories about people owning 20, 30, 40 cats and the terrible neglect as a result. Should there be a limit as to how many you can keep?
RA: I think there should be a limit – perhaps two or three. Cats cost a lot of money to look after properly.
You get old people taking on ten, twenty thirty cats because they can’t bear seeing them in a rescue shelter. But at the end of the day they are doing the cats more harm than good.
It is something which should be looked at.
TA: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel to the current crisis? If not what is the solution?
RA: No, not really.
As I’ve already mentioned I think microchipping is massively important, the sooner that is compulsory the better.
I would also like to see breeding better regulated. You get these back street breeders trying to make a quick few pounds from selling kittens. When they realise they can’t, they dump them. I think breeders should have to be registered.
I also think we need stricter fines and sentences for those who abuse or dump pets. Again micro-chipping would help police this and any fines should go to struggling animal shelters.
TA: Do cats understand us? And why would you say they make good pets?
RA: Absolutely, they are very intelligent.
Owners talk to their cats and they pick up on their body language and understand them.
They are extremely loving pets and they mourn just like humans. You hear stories of the owner dying and then the cat dying shortly after. If you care and look after your cat then you have a friend for life.
They are particularly good for the elderly or people on their own because they are such good company.
We have all different kinds of cats here at the moment and I would urge anyone thinking of getting a new pet to speak to us. We can talk you through everything and make sure you get the right cat. They are the perfect pet.
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