The Duchess of Cornwall has urged the nation to visit Battersea Dogs and Cats home and “find a friend for life” – as she cosied up to a puppy.
Camilla celebrated the 160th anniversary of the famous animal welfare charity by inviting volunteers, supporters, and celebrity ambassadors Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden and author Jacqueline Wilson to her Clarence House home.
The charity has seen an influx of abandoned pets, as their owners return to work as the pandemic eased, and raised the prospect of the cost of living crisis adding to the numbers left at its centres.
After being welcomed by a doggy guard of honour the duchess mingled with her guests as she celebrated the charity she supports as royal patron, founded by Mary Tealby in 1860 as The Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs.
She said in an impromptu speech: “You have all seen how easy it is to go there and come out with an animal, I’ve done it twice. There are, due to Covid, a lot of dogs and cats now at Battersea looking for homes.
“So if I could appeal to everybody listening and all your friends, if they want a dog or a cat to go along to Battersea and find a friend for life.”
Camilla has two rescue animals from Battersea, Jack Russell Terriers Beth and Bluebell, who feature in the latest edition of Country LIfe, guest edited by the duchess, draped with their owner’s pearls.
The duchess got to know flora, an eight-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, during the reception and touched noses with the puppy brought into Battersea last week as a stray with two siblings.
The event was staged in the garden of Clarence House in central London with guests taking shelter from the burning sun under trees, but children’s author Wilson fainted and was cared for by St John Ambulance volunteers and later said she felt fine.
O’Grady, filmed a sequence with Camilla for his ITV programme For the Love of Dogs and said he had five rescue dogs from Battersea and joked “I take my work home with me”.
He added: “Battersea has got a heart, I always say it’s like a Cinderella story. Dogs are brought in, in the most appalling condition and gradually the staff work so hard to gain their confidence and their trust, the vets work hard to get them well again and they go off to a nice home.”
Paul Marvell, the charity’s director of global programmes, looked ahead to future challenges: “We think the cost of living crisis is having an impact on the numbers of animals that people want to bring into rescue centres such as Battersea.
“So we are seeing an increase in numbers now and I don’t think it will be long before our centres are as close to capacity as they could be.”