Sussex animal rescue centre recovering from 'horrific situation' amid bird flu outbreak: Emergency appeal launched

More than 100 birds had to be put to sleep after a ‘devastating’ outbreak at a Sussex animal rescue centre.

Worthing-based Wadars animal rescue has launched an emergency appeal following the outbreak of a deadly avian influenza virus this summer – which resulted in the closure of its wildlife unit and clean-up costs in the region of £25,000.

Director of operations, Tracy Cadman, said: “Having cared for them for many weeks, our worst fears were confirmed after we contacted Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in order to discuss our concerns about the health of a small number of birds.

"Defra visited the same day and took samples, and we later received the devastating news that the samples had tested positive for avian influenza, and as a result, the 100 plus birds in our care would need to be culled.

"What is even more heartbreaking is that we were told that our PPE and biosecurity levels were very good, but still this happened.”

A strain of avian influenza was found in a group of captive birds in West Sussex, with the county council urging poultry keepers – in the Ferring area of Arun – to contact Trading Standards.

Housing and movement restrictions for birds were put in place by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) after the discovery of the strain, named H5N1.

Tracy added: “As I’m sure you can imagine, this horrific situation has hit both our staff and voluntary team members extremely hard, especially colleagues who had worked tirelessly day in, day out with the birds and other wildlife in our care.

"People who had direct contact with the birds were given a ten-day course of antiviral medication as the disease can, in rare cases, transfer to

humans, and we have also been providing support for the team to enable people to talk through what happened and how it might have affected them.”

Since the outbreak, Wadars said its staff have been working closely with Defra and specialist contractors in order to put in place the ‘rigorous programme of cleansing and disinfection’ that is ‘necessary to eliminate this disease’.

"Due to the intricacies of the cleansing programme and the highly infectious nature of the disease, the painstaking work could take up to three months to complete at a likely cost of around £25,000,” a spokesperson for the charity said.

‘Throughout the crisis’, the wildlife helpline and mobile wildlife rescue service has continued to operate and is on track to have responded to more than 1,400 calls for help from members of the public by the end of the year.

Wadars has also continued to find forever homes for a range of companion animals, which were not affected by the outbreak.

Tracy said: “The money that this bird flu outbreak is costing the charity is what would otherwise be spent on the dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals in our care as well as our community-based wildlife rescue work.

"We are appealing to people in the community that we serve to help us recoup some of that money by donating to our emergency appeal. Please help us to recover from this awful ordeal and thank you in advance for any support that you can give.”

To donate to the Wadars Emergency Appeal, either send a cheque made payable to ‘Wadars’ to Wadars, Hangleton Lane, Ferring, West Sussex, BN12 6PP, or via the Wadars JustGiving page.