Comedy writer Carla Lane recently had to remortgage her Sussex mansion to keep her animal sanctuary going.

The Liverpudlian also auctioned off signed scripts for her hit sitcoms Bread, Butterflies and The Liver Birds to raise money for her charity, Animaline, based in Horsted Keynes, near Haywards Heath.

Even her close friend Sir Paul McCartney dug into his pockets to help out. But the sanctuary isn't the only animal charity that only gets by with a little help from their friends. Across Sussex animal charities are facing a funding crisis. Simon Barrett reports.

Set in 40 acres of Sussex countryside, the Animaline sanctuary seems the perfect place for a sick or injured animal to recover.

It has an operating theatre and animal hospital and the charity's mission is to never allow a sick or injured animal to die if it has a chance of survival.

The menagerie includes sheep, goats, horses, ducks, chickens, geese, swans, bats, birds of prey and 44 cows.

Comedy writer Carla Lane has bankrolled the sanctuary since it opened in 1993.

Ms Lane recently remortgaged her Broadfield Manor mansion to keep the charity going, and is now taking a more proactive approach to fundraising.

Her close friend Sir Paul McCartney provides straw from his estate near Rye and a recent open day raised £8,000 - but the future still remains uncertain.

Sadly, Animaline is far from the only animal charity which has to work hard to keep going.

Across Sussex dedicated volunteers are at breaking point as they struggle to make ends meet.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) volunteers help injured foxes, badgers, deer, hedgehogs, seals, swans and other wild creatures every day.

But the charity is finding it hard to pay for the increasing number of call-outs. Boss Trevor Weeks, who has spent 22 years with the service, said the average call-out costs the charity £65.

Last year there were 2,210 incidents.

The charity needs about £40,000 a year to survive.

In the past it has received money from legacies but would prefer to rely on more regular sources of income, such as standing orders set up by supporters.

Trevor gave up a £35,000 a year job ten years ago to volunteer with WRAS, and at one point sold the entire contents of his bedroom - save the bed - to keep the charity going.

He said: "I haven't had a holiday in 18 years and have given up any chance I had of getting a mortgage or a decent pension. But there are people like me involved in animal charities all over the place - it just isn't that unusual.

"The European Union and the Government pump billions into conservation projects, but nothing at all into animal welfare. To me that is just not right. Conservation and animal welfare are two different things.

"Our problem is that people don't tend to donate until they use us. It's often only after you've hit an animal that you realise the importance of the service we provide. At the end of the day, a life is precious."

Despite the lack of funds, there is always a hardy bunch of WRAS volunteers to help out. The charity recently only expected a handful of people to turn up to the official opening of its new care unit in Horsebridge, Hailsham, but was left with standing room only as dozens of people arrived.

The Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare in Ringmer is another charity that relies on voluntary support.

Raystede aims to prevent and relieve cruelty to animals and to protect them from unnecessary suffering. More than 1,500 unwanted and abandoned animals arrive at the centre annually.

Dogs, cats and other animals are found new homes while others remain in Raystede's care for the rest of their days.

Nigel Mason, general manager of the centre, said: "We rely totally on charitable donations.

Luckily for us we have been around for 50 years and are well known in Sussex, so essentially we rely on legacy donations.

"That is both nice but also a bit scary, because there is not enough security. That means we have to look at other revenue streams to make sure we are still around for another 50 years.

"Charities are all competing for donations and it is a real shame the Government doesn't recognise the social service we offer in looking after and rehoming animals."

It is a story that Billy Elliott knows well.

Mr Elliott is a rescue officer for Worthing and District Animal Rescue Service (Wadars). Established in 1969, the main objectives of the charity are the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife and the rehoming of domestic animals.

Again the charity relies entirely on donations, legacies and fund-raising to keep running.

It's work regularly features in The Argus and in the past few months the charity has helped animals ranging from injured corn snakes to stranded seals.

Mr Elliott said fund-raising events like street collections and jumble sales were vital, not only financially but also to raise awareness of the charity.

He said: "The problem is we are often in direct competition with large national charities like the RSPCA or Cats Protection, which have huge budgets for advertising and publicity.

"To be brutally honest it's charities like us who do the most work for local animals in Sussex, yet we are in constant competition for funds. About 90 per cent of our income is from legacies, and it's sad that we never get to say thank you to those people.

"We have a network of foster carers who take in animals for us. It's these people who are the unsung heroes."

Celia Hammond is a former model who set up an animal welfare centre in Brede, near Hastings.

This month she received the lifetime dedication award from the International Fund For Animal Welfare for her work in Hastings and across the country.

Ms Hammond, who was one of the top models in the Sixties, used her career as a platform to campaign against the fur trade, factory farming, vivisection and other animal abuses. She founded the Celia Hammond Animal Trust in 1986, to provide low-cost neuter and vaccination clinics for animals.

She said: "I suppose when health services for people are being cut back the Government could not justify funding animal charities, so we just have to get on with it.

"But unlike larger charities we do not have public relations people or fund-raisers - they are a luxury we cannot stretch to at the moment.

"Unfortunately it is impossible to raise the amount of money we need to run on a monthly basis so we also have to rely heavily on legacies, which is not really a healthy situation to be in."

  • Do you think these charities should get more help from taxpayers or are there simply too many of them to be sustainable? Leave your thoughts below