Animal campaigner Celia Hammond launches appeal from Canning Town centre

It’s raining cats and dogs in Canning Town and the situation has nothing to do with the weather. Now an animal rescue centre has been left nearing crisis point.

It’s raining cats and dogs in Canning Town and the situation has nothing to do with the weather.

Now an animal rescue centre has been left nearing crisis point.

We met overwhelmed staff of the Celia Hammond Animal Trust (CHAT) in Barking Road, a low-cost neutering, vaccination clinic and rescue home for animals, to find the rooms, compounds, waiting room, corridors and even staff room teeming with injured and abandoned pets.

Celia, the Trust’s founder, explained that they have reached crisis point: “Last year was when it was starting to get worse than at any other time – but this year has just been unbelievable.

“We are, for the first time, having to pick and choose what emergencies we go to. We’re having to choose what animals are in the most danger.”

Animal lover Celia began her campaign to neuter cats to control the feral population in the 60s when she was modelling for magazines like Vogue.

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In the early 70s she gave up her glamorous modelling career to focus full-time on animal welfare, eventually winning awards from Pride of Britain and the RSPCA.

CHAT was set up in 1986 to build a neutering and vaccination clinic in Lewisham, south London. but following a high number of rescue calls in east London, Celia decided to expand the Trust by building another clinic in Barking Road where she lives and works today.

The Trust’s re-homing figures have been hurt badly by the recession with more people surrendering their pets and less taking animals in.

“No one knows if they’re going to have a job next week or even a home next week,” Celia said. “No one knows who’s being made redundant. The situation with jobs is very unstable.

“So I don’t think that people are keen on taking on an extra responsibility or an extra mouth to feed. Or where they might have said we’ll take two to keep each other company they’ll now only take one.”

As the cost of living has risen along with unemployment, less people are able to afford to take their pets to private vets meaning that charitable clinics like Celia’s are more in demand than ever.

She admitted: “People’s financial situations are affecting what we do here. We rely on donations but we also rely on people valuing what we do here and paying for treatment.”

As the many bright-eyed animals peering up from all corners testify, the clinic also provides a re-homing service for the hundreds of stray animals – a service Celia insists on doing properly.

She said: “We always make home visits. Always. I think if an animal is going to be re-homed and you don’t know where it’s going then that can’t be right. You’ve got to make sure the right animal goes to the right people.”

CHAT’s website lists just some of the attractive cats that need a home but, of course, all cats deserve a fresh start: “Some cats come to us in a terrible state. However, some people do come in and say ‘show me the cat that no one else wants, take me to your ugliest cat’ which is nice.”

Neutering is at the top of the agenda at the clinic as Celia refuses to accept that killing unwanted animals is the only solution to controlling the stray population.

She said: “If you have animals, you must neuter them. Because it’s anti-social for those who live close by, especially if you have tomcats who don’t smell very nice, and they can build up very quickly to numbers that can be a nuisance.

”To be a responsible owner, you need to stop your own animal from adding to the unwanted population.”

Celia showed the Recorder a particularly shocking example of this in one compound which held 24 cats collected from a single rescue, from a local man who had begun with two cats and found they quickly multiplied over two years until he could no longer afford them.

Summarising the solution to this endless cycle of suffering, Celia said: “There’s a phrase ‘Don’t breed or buy while other cats die’ and that’s very true.

“Why? Why breed animals when there are thousands and thousands languishing in rescue centres longing for homes?”

* If you think you could help a rescue animal or you would like to make a donation to CHAT, call (020) 7474 8811 or visit