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Holding out a helping hand to animal welfare charities in need

A week-long series of programmes will show the work of those tending to anything from reindeer to feisty ferrets. Gemma Dunn finds out more

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The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton and farmer Anne Telfer

The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton and farmer Anne Telfer

The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton and farmer Anne Telfer

Tis the season for giving - and Channel 5 is starting us off with the return of its popular Help The Animals appeal. Back for a second consecutive run, the initiative - which will launch a week of special programming - last year raised a grand total of more than £800,000 towards funding and awareness of UK animal welfare charities, including the vital work carried out by the RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, Blue Cross, The Donkey Sanctuary and Wildlife Aid Foundation.

This year the broadcaster hopes to do the same (if not more!) with another stellar line-up of Channel 5 favourites, supported - and hosted - by famous faces to boot.

From tales of rescuing to rehoming, each episode will be dedicated to one of five charities involved, in a bid to underline the amazing work they do every day, as well as highlight the threats facing animals in the UK today.

So what's on the schedule?

Celebrity Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly will see dog trainer Graeme Hall lead three despairing celebrity dog owners - Denise Van Outen and her French Bulldog Tilly; world renowned opera singer Russell Watson with rescue Saluki Poppy; and former England striker Michael Owen with Staffordshire Terrier Ronnie - on a journey to fix their bad habits and tame their dogs whose behaviour has been far from star quality.

Meanwhile, Save The Hedgehogs follows presenter Steve Backshall (and features Only Fools and Horses' John Challis) as he turns the spotlight on all the uplifting and positive things we can all do to help these wonderful creatures survive.

Packed full of fantastic new clips, a cracker full of viral favourites and home visits of some of the show's best 'pet stars', Funniest Ever Pets at Christmas features thoughts and reactions from some of the nation's favourite animal loving comedians and celebrities including Shane Richie, Jo Brand, Susan Calman, Nina Wadia and Michelle Visage.

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There's also - and wait for it - a 'Dogumentary' by the name of Meet The Paw-rents: Celebs and Their Dogs, which showcases celebrities as we've never seen them before... filmed by their very own pooches! Yes, using state-of-the-art technology, the canine cameras (attached to the dogs via a harness) are there to get a bite of the action.

Expect to see the likes of Louie Spence, Danniella Westbrook and Caprice Bourret, among others, making 'history' with that one.

And last but by no means least are festive spin-offs of The Yorkshire Vet, the hit documentary series that follows the lives and work of veterinarians Peter Wright and Julian Norton at their two practices in North Yorkshire.

While The Yorkshire Vet: 12 Days of Christmas is billed to pay homage to the classic carol, as the duo care for all creatures great and small at Christmas, The Yorkshire Vet's Donkey Day Out sees Wright take long-time friends and clients, Steve and Jean Green, on an adventure like never before.

What more can they tell us?

"So we have gone a little bit off-piste and rather than it being a standard Yorkshire Vet episode with a Christmas twist, this year is all based around the song, The 12 Days of Christmas," says Norton of the offering.

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Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright dressed as Father Christmas

Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright dressed as Father Christmas

Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright dressed as Father Christmas

"We have not necessarily got four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and one partridge, but we have tried our best to get those numbers with similar animals," adds the star, who started on The Yorkshire Vet back in 2015 and has since made nearly 100 episodes.

"But we do have nine feisty ferrets, and we have got seven sheep scanning for pregnancy so that is a nice one," he adds. "Their lambs are hopefully due just after Christmas."

"I was fortunate enough to film with a couple of reindeer, one of which needed veterinary attention," Wright adds. "They are not quite the docile creatures that you have on Christmas cards - antlers are there for a reason!" he warns.

As his for Donkey Day Out with The Greens, he quips: "It is almost unbelievable to a lot of our viewers, that we have got a couple here who have never been out of Yorkshire!"

"It was quite an eye-opener and a great deal of fun taking the Greens to London; and we also went to an inner-city farm where they had donkeys which were from The Donkey Sanctuary [for which Wright is an ambassador].

"After we'd seen the sights of London, we got on the train and went to The Donkey Sanctuary down in Devon - they loved that."

Tourist sites aside, it's all about the initiative, say the pair.

"All of the charities do a fantastic job in their own way; each has a role to play and it is fantastic that these organisations are there," concludes Wright.

"Our animal population would be in a very sorry state without them."

"Particularly at this time of year, it's nice to be pushing [animals] to the forefront at a time when people's thoughts are perhaps elsewhere," Norton concurs.

"The charities that are involved are really worthwhile causes so it is nice to highlight more than one."

For further details on how to donate and get involved visit: www.channel5.com/helptheanimals

Help The Animals will air between Monday, December 2 and Friday, December 6


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