All Creatures Great and Small (ACGAS) is a nine acre animal sanctuary operating in Llanfrechfa on the outskirts of Cwmbran in South Wales. The Sanctuary was opened by Vivienne Harris in 1992 and has since been rehabilitating and re-homing injured, abused, unwanted and orphaned animals.
I love dogs (as you know), so I recently got in touch with their centre manager, Matt Nicholls, to see if they would like me to take photos of their animals. Not exclusively dogs mind you, ACGAS accommodates all sorts, from gerbils to their resident horses!
It didn't take much persuasion as they are always looking for volunteers to help in any way possible.
Hosting various events is par for the course as they need around £250,000 a year to keep the sanctuary running to the standard expected, which ensures a high level of animal welfare is maintained. When I arrived, Matt was busy serving customers in the jumble sale, so I quickly introduced myself and worked my way around the site meeting other staff and volunteers.
I found Jo in the barn, preparing lunch for the Guinea Pigs, Rabbits and Pigs. She explained that "Sainsbury's" very kindly donate all of their waste fruit and vegetables to feed various animals at the sanctuary. This waste is created due to the "use by date" found on all perishable goods. I checked a packet of celery and there was nothing wrong with it! I'd have eaten it myself if it wasn't strictly
"not for human consumption".
Becky volunteers at the sanctuary as much as possible throughout the week and I found her cleaning out the small animal enclosures. The building houses gerbils, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, degus and other small pets. The rabbits are each given a two storey hutch with a tunnel leading through the back wall into their very own outside enclosure with ample space to run around or relax in the sun.
Next door are the Cat Cabins where the daily cleaning and feeding schedule was already in full swing. Although the cats can't leave the main building (they would disappear faster than The Flash!); they are allowed to wander around and play inside while the volunteers get to work sweeping, mopping and disinfecting each cabin. Fresh food and water is put down, at which point the cats make a beeline back to their temporary abodes. The kittens were a particular favourite, play pouncing and daring to venture just outside their door.
A bit further away from the main buildings are the paddocks for larger animals which include a Shetland pony, horse, goats and pigs. These are some of the resident animals which will remain at the sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in a safe and happy environment.
Heading behind the main farm building, there is a large pond which is home to an array of wild birds such as ducks, geese, and even a turkey. Continuing the theme, further along the path I came across the free range chickens in a variety of different breeds. They were happily scratching around in the dirt, and there are plenty of feed and water bowls scattered around.
I always wanted chickens in my own garden but we've just had new turf laid and their destructive powers are real. That doesn't make them any less adorable though!
This area is also home to an aviary containing budgies, cockatiels and a quail among other breeds.
After a quick lunch break it was time for the main event. All of the dogs at the sanctuary are walked individually in the morning before being put back into their kennels for breakfast and a nap. In the afternoon they get 15-20 minutes to run around and play in a large enclosed field.
I'd already met Ted, Jazz and Huckleberry on their morning walk so I knew that this was going to be fun! Volunteers Tony, Ben and Becky, took it in turns to run the dogs in the field while I rattled off shots and got to really experience the individual personalities of each beautiful dog.
The volunteers explained that there are many reasons these dogs end up at the sanctuary.
From owners falling ill, changing lifestyle (job, housing etc), to cases of abuse and neglect.
The history of each animal is investigated as best as possible to determine the right kind of home for adoption. Some can't live with small children, others don't get on well with other pets etc, and rehoming is only allowed for those who won't leave them alone for more than 4 hours. Of course this narrows down the list of potential new owners, but the needs of each animal always come first here. I couldn't possibly pick a favourite dog but I will say that "Beaut" will forever hold a place in my heart. She recently had an MRI scan and is classed as disabled due to spinal nerve damage meaning that she shakes and stumbles off balance as she runs. But she doesn't let this hold her back, and her life and soul is a truly beautiful thing to behold!
If you're thinking of getting a dog, cat, or any of the other animals I've mentioned above, please consider adopting from All Creatures Great & Small if it's a viable option for you. These animals need a loving forever home, and you could be the one to give it to them. And if you can spare as little as £1.50 a month, please sign up to make regular donations to this incredible organisation.
Alternatively you can donate via their Just Giving page.