Celia Hammond talks about her charity
PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 February 2016
Iconic 1960’s supermodel and animal ambassador, Celia Hammond speaks exclusively to WEL to ask for urgent help this month
How did the transition from becoming a successful model to founding Celia Hammond Animal Trust (CHAT) happen?
I was a model in the 1960s, and since then I have become known as a campaigner against fur and for the neutering of cats to control the feral population. At the beginning I would combine modelling and animal rescue, but it eventually became impossible with the commuting back and forth. My boyfriend at the time, Jeff (musician, Jeff Beck) and I moved to Wadhurst and I would travel to London from here, but that got too much as well. I paid for all the rescue work myself and there was no spare money left. So In 1986 I founded the Celia Hammond Animal Trust with the aim of opening a low cost neutering clinic to control the increasing number of strays. The first of these clinics opened in Lewisham in 1995, and a second opened in Canning Town in 1999. The Celia Hammond Animal Trust also runs a sanctuary in Brede (near Hastings) for animals who are not suitable to be homed for various reasons. In addition to neutering animals, the clinics (and sanctuary) also help to rescue and rehome animals - now homing thousands of cats each year.
Was there any opposition?
Yes, there was a huge opposition from the veterinary position at the beginning. But it was a success the minute we opened and we were packed because people wanted their animals neutered and for it to be done cheaply. In those days we could see the difference we were making and then things started to change as the environment evolved. No matter how hard we worked, we realised we weren’t having as much effect as we wanted; people were breeding their cats as much as getting rid of them.
Why is it getting worse?
Too many people don’t recognise this is the cause of the problem, we just get so many animals dumped outside our doors. 7-8 years ago to have animals dumped in boxes was a rarity - perhaps once or twice a month. But now it happens virtually every day, where animals are left in the waiting room or we find a box of kittens in an alley way behind our building. For example, we recently rescued tiny white kittens that were dumped in a box in Victoria Park and appallingly, they had had their toes cut off. I think some people dump animals in the hope that they will be found whilst others simply don’t. It is devastating.
We want to get to the people who are dumping the animals, but they need to be caught first. We do run after them to try and solve the situation, but we can’t do a citizen’s arrest in the street!
People genuinely treat us like an actual dustbin here. People just think the charity will sort it. They don’t realise how much the charities are suffering currently, and how things have got out of control with the sheer numbers of cats.
How can things improve?
We have seen so much deliberate cruelty, which is absolutely heart-breaking. It’s hard to believe but lots of cats are actually shot around here, although a lot of neglect is caused by ignorance which is something you can work with. Deliberate cruelty is something I find hard to deal with.
Most people care for their own cats, but when you try to talk to them about the bigger picture, people are not interested. People should try and focus on their own animal and be responsible for them and understand the advantages of neutering. Protect your cat from becoming pregnant. Kittens can get pregnant from four-months-old.