SSPCA to shut down Mellerstain rescue centre

L-r, Debbie Innes (manager of SSPCA at Mellerstain), Sarah Ruthven and Jim Innes with six staffordshire terrier crosses, Zara, Darcy, Ruben, Tyler, Jules and Wallace.
L-r, Debbie Innes (manager of SSPCA at Mellerstain), Sarah Ruthven and Jim Innes with six staffordshire terrier crosses, Zara, Darcy, Ruben, Tyler, Jules and Wallace.

THE animal rescue centre at Mellerstain near Gordon will close by the end of the year.

The Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals is shutting the unit that was its first rescue centre in Scotland 20 years ago, saying continuing to run it is no longer feasible.

SBSR SSPCA Mellerstain

SBSR SSPCA Mellerstain

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The site has no public transport access or development potential and the animal accommodation requires significant investment further to the £120,000 annual running costs.

“As a charity, we must use the donations we receive as effectively as possible and maintaining this site is no longer feasible.”

Consultation with the centre’s four staff is on-going and they have been offered alternative employment within the charity said Mr Flynn. No firm date has been set for the closure.

The rescue unit, which has 12 kennels and accommodation for six cats and 20 smaller animals is being run by a temporary, manager after the previous supervisor, Debbie Innes moved to the charity’s Aberdeenshire centre as assistant manager about six months ago.

Although it is the SSPCA’s smallest rescue establishment, Mellerstain is still taking in 100 to 130 dogs each year.

Last year, staff helped rehabilitate and rehome 127 dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals adding to the thousands already saved and cared for over the last two decades.

The charity opened its first animal rescue centre, renting the house and kennels from the Earl of Haddington, in 1992 when there were three SSPCA inspectors in the region. Now there is one, in Peebles.

There was local support as the local operation successfully fought off closure plans in 2003 when the SSPCA ran into financial difficulties.

Mary Thomson, who was manager of the centre from when it opened until 2007, said: “I’m sad to see it closing.”

During her time, Mellerstain developed a reputation for successfully rearing and rehoming puppies and their mums as well as helping and retraining antisocial dogs.

The closure of one of the three main animal welfare centres in the region is likely to put more pressure on the other two - Arthurshiel Rescue Centre in St Boswells and the Borders Animal Welfare Association centre at Earlston.

Mrs Thomson, who still helps dogs, said: “All the animal charities are under pressure in the current economic climate with the amount of pets people are giving up: a vet bill is an expensive thing, there’s insurance and keeping a pet – all these costs mount up.”

Mr Flynn said the closure would not affect the charity’s work saving animals and investigating cruelty.

“Domestic animals rescued in the area have often been cared for at our Edinburgh and Lothians centre, given the limited capacity at Mellerstain, and this will continue to be the case, while wildlife casualties have always been rehabilitated at our wildlife rescue centre in Fife.

He continued: “We are investing in our frontline services, having significantly expanded our Edinburgh and Lothians centre, opened a new centre in Aberdeenshire and started work to relocate our wildlife rescue centre to a larger site in Clackmannanshire.”

He said the Borders centre had helped many rescued animals find new, loving homes.

“Often the animals at the centre have had particular needs, such as socialisation. We will now be able to care for these animals in several of our centres across the country due to our investment in these facilities.”

And as with many of the rest of the SSPCA centres across Scotland, more than 40 per cent of the dogs needing new homes from the Mellerstain centre are Staffordshire bull terriers or Staffy-cross types.