Our dedicated team of staff come from various backgrounds and but they all share an immense passion for animals and work together to achieve one common goal; ‘To provide shelter from harm and the promise of a brighter future’
Monty Halls – Patron
“Without Holly Hedge, there would be no Reuben – and many hundreds of other dogs and cats just like him. I simply can’t praise the work they do enough. With limited funds and highly motivated, professional staff, they have created something truly special that has saved the lives of countless animals. It is an extraordinary place run by extraordinary people for the very best of reasons.”
Monty came to Holly Hedge and found his best friend Reuben. Together they have gone on many adventures presenting many of his famous BBC shows such as the Great Escape series. As well as his work in television, Monty is also an explorer and marine biologist, and we are honoured that he is our Patron. Have a look at our video (it’s on our home page), all about the work that we do, starring Monty and Reuben!
Sadly Reuben was diagnosed with heart disease in 2015 and was eventually put to sleep in 2016, dyeing in peace in Monty’s arms.
We still consider Reuben as our Ambassadog, and know that he keeps a close eye on the sanctuary from his dog bed in the sky. He champions our Pet Care Advice page -this page is written by Holly Hedge, with years’ worth of experience, to help owners look after their new pet when they get them home. It also lists house and garden items that can be dangerous to animals. Visit Reuben’s Pet Care Centre to find out more.
Holly Hedge is so pleased that Monty and Reuben found each other at the Sanctuary, and that Reuben found fame and a place in the nation’s heart. The more the public know about the amazing animals in rescue centres up and down the country the better. We hope that many more people, who are able to offer a loving forever home to an animal, follow Monty’s great example and adopt a deserving animal from a rescue centre like Holly Hedge.
Anthony Head and Sarah Fisher – Patrons
“We are proud to support Holly Hedge and all that they do to give a home to animals in need. Rescue work is something that is very close to our hearts and we ask that you consider helping them in any way that you can to ensure that they can continue with their vital and increasingly necessary work.”
Animal welfare is an important part of Anthony Head and Sarah Fisher’s lives and they support many animal charities. They are well known for the tireless support they give to animal charities, in particular horses, cats and dogs. Holly Hedge is privileged to have the support of such a wonderful couple.
Anthony Head is well known for his role in television advertisements for Nescafé Gold Blend and is known for his roles as Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as Uther Pendragon in Merlin. Animal welfare is a cause close to his heart and he lends his support to many animal welfare organisations.
Sarah Fisher is well known for her important work in animal therapy; she helps animals overcome a variety of health and behavioural issues in a kind and respectful way and runs the UK TTeam and TTouch centre near Bath. For more information on Tellington Touch visit their website www.ttouchtteam.co.uk.
Holly Hedge further benefits from Sarah’s knowledge in the field of animal therapy as a team of TTouch practitioners often visit the sanctuary to help heal our cats and dogs on a voluntary basis. This greatly helps our animals to relax and adjust; ultimately helping them to find a new and loving forever home.
Pauline Leeson – Founder
From a very young age I have always had a strong passion for all animals. Learning of the atrocities endured by defenceless animals at the hands of human beings appalled and horrified me so much that I knew I wanted to help relieve their suffering in any way I could, and was determined somehow to make a positive difference for those who had no voice. At that time, all those years ago I had no idea of how I was going to achieve this, but I did have a vision – and a lot of will power!
It was an incredible journey of discovery, fuelled purely on love and compassion for animals. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way, with a roller coaster of highs and lows, and sometimes bouts of sheer despair because I couldn’t do enough fast enough! Mistakes were also made as this was a learning process for me and sadly no-one is infallible.
I began by hearing about dogs and cats who were no longer wanted, and taking them in to my family home, just a few at a time, ensuring they were neutered before finding caring owners. It didn’t take long for word to get around, and people would just turn up on my doorstep with animals they no longer wanted, some in a sorry state and needing veterinary treatment. Vets also began referring people to me, who brought pets in to be put to sleep, and everything was escalating at such a fast pace. Soon my home was full of rescues, some in rooms on their own, and thankfully, others just happily getting on with each other and having the run of the house. Help was urgently needed, so were more animal lovers to foster in their homes. At one point I was looking after 50 rescues – mums with babies, feral cats, adult dogs, puppies and cats and kittens of all descriptions. Thank goodness for my wonderful family who helped enormously and played an integral part in my being able to continue to help the animals – who were very much a part of their lives too.
The local newspaper printed an article hi-lighting the situation, and several kind people offered their facilities and help with raising funds. Because there was always a long waiting list of animals needing help, reputable boarding kennels and catteries also had to be used once a reduced rate was negotiated. This continued for years, and our dedicated little group decided to become a registered charity in 1986. At that time we called ourselves Animal Concern and were becoming more and more in demand and really struggling to accommodate so many unwanted and abandoned pets. Publicity was always a double edged sword and, although new homes were found, there were also more animals rang in desperate for help – so we just carried on regardless and rescued as many animals as possible. I could only dream that one day someone would believe in this little charity enough to sponsor purchasing our own rescue centre. So a handful of us muddled along from hand to mouth, sometimes not knowing where the money for the next vet bill was coming from – but we managed to stay afloat with the help of kind people who supported us.
It was a real stroke of luck that a wonderful lady called Esme Berni read a newsletter I had written, and made contact. This was the beginning of the most amazing support we could ever have wished for – her love of all animals knew no bounds and she became our saviour.
In January 1992, a boarding kennels we used for our rescues called Holly Hedge came up for sale, and the dream of a Sanctuary soon became a reality. Esme bought Holly Hedge because she believed in our work, and trusted us to continue to give the very best standard of care to our rescues.
So here we are today, Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary, and no longer Animal Concern. Thousands of homeless animals have passed through our gates desperate for a safe haven. Seeing so many who arrived at Holly Hedge in an appalling state, some literally on death’s doorstep, flourish and learn to trust the human race, ready to face the world again, means everything, and is worth all the emotional heartache. To see them going off to their new homes is so heart warming and uplifting.
Massive improvements have been made since opening our gates in 1992, and are still ongoing for the well-being and enrichment of our rescues. Up to 800 pets a year are re homed, and given the chance of a new beginning, but we couldn’t have done this without our dear friend and benefactor, the late Esme Berni. This amazing lady will always be our Guardian Angel, and I hope she is looking down on us from above knowing she has saved the lives of thousands of animals because of her kindness and faith in us.
I have so very many people to thank for Holly Hedge being what it is today – a well established, well respected half way house renowned for the love, care and devotion to all our precious rescues – and this will never change – not even after my demise, which I hope will be a long time coming!
With dedicated staff, volunteers and supporters, as well as our great team of Trustees, Holly Hedge cannot fail to continue to provide a future and safe haven for animals in need.
So thank you – everyone involved in Holly Hedge who has helped us make a positive difference to those dear creatures who depend on us so much.
I couldn’t be prouder of our Sanctuary, and all the wonderful people who dedicate their lives to caring for our rescues. We can never contemplate letting the animals down, or our supporters who believe in our work – and especially dear Esme who made everything possible. I hope that she is looking down on Holly Hedge, and is very proud of what we have all achieved together.
It has been a privilege for me to have made this journey, and although I am now semi retired, 43 years on, this journey isn’t quite over yet – there is still much to be done .
Sarah Schranz – Kennel and Cattery Manager
I started my rescue career early taking the school chickens home in my bag so they couldn’t be sent to the ‘farm’. I have always had a great love of animals and really found her place whilst living in Australia when I began volunteering for the ACT Rescue & Foster Association, temperament testing dogs in city pounds, coordinating and fostering to rescue them. Returning to the UK with her Aussie husband, she began a Degree in Animal Behaviour & Welfare at Hartpury College, before working my way up the ladder working at Animal Sanctuaries. Taking a career break to run my own retail business, I continued to volunteer for The Labrador Rescue Trust but my love of rescues led me back to applying at Holly Hedge and the rest is history. I am mum to Cooper her Labrador and Charlie & jasper her two black Cats.
Lucinda Pullen – Assistant Kennel and Cattery Manager
I have always had a strong passion for animals and had hamster and rabbits growing up. I volunteered with animals wherever possible from groomers, veterinary surgeries to the Monkey Sanctuary. I gained a BSc Animal Behaviour & Welfare at Chester University before travelling for 3 years. Once back in the UK i based myself back in Chester where I studied a PGCE and began teaching Animal Care to Mainstream and Autistic learners at a college in North Wales. During this time I also volunteered for Chester Kitty Cat Rescue and Cats Protection where I helped with feral populations, fostering, fundraising, home checking etc. To work in animal welfare and rescue work has always been my ambition so when a job came up at Holly Hedge I jumped at the chance to change location and join the team. I have 4 cats that moved down with me – Maisey, Blue, George and Tilly and a new addition to the cat clan Noah.
Angela Millard – Accounts Manager
I started working at Holly Hedge in September 2005. I am AAT qualified and have always worked in finance within the private sector and gained a lot of experience over the years. When I first started, Holly Hedge had one computer and the Treasurer had an old style ledger book where all the finance was recorded. Holly Hedge has come a long way in the last 12 years.
I knew nothing about animal rescue centres back when I first started and was very naive but I have learned a lot over the years from the dedicated staff, volunteers and the founder Pauline, I’ve covered the reception duties, dealt with telephone calls and been involved in rehoming decisions. I’ve also fostered various cats, dogs and puppies.
I am married with 2 children and have a rescue blind cat called Daisy who came from Holly Hedge. Daisy amazes me every day with how she manages without her sight, she has even manage to catch a couple of mice since I’ve had her, we all love her dearly. My daughter is very passionate about animals and Holly Hedge and can often be found helping out in the cattery while I’m working on a weekend day.
People often ask me “how can you work there, is it not too upsetting?” yes it can be difficult at times seeing what we see but also very rewarding watching those tails wag and hearing the purrs as they are going off to their new forever homes.
I truly believe there is no other place like Holly Hedge, they go that extra mile to help every animal get the love, care and veterinary treatment they need and I consider every animal coming through our doors to be lucky they have found their way to us rather than where they may have found themselves they receive the help and care they deserve.
I am very proud to work for such an outstanding Charity with amazing people and animals.
Hannah Wozniak – Fundraising Manager
Having had 9 cats, 9 gerbils, 5 fish, 1 rabbit, 1 dog and even a hedgehog sanctuary at my family home while I was growing you can understand how I ended up here!
In 2009 I graduated with a degree in BA HONS Events Management at Cardiff University, I then traveled to Australia where I began a job as Events Fundraiser for national charity the Leukaemia Foundation; this is where my passion for the not for profit sector started and I have worked for charities ever since. I was then able to pair this passion with my love of animals when I joined Holly Hedge in 2015.
It is so lovely to know that you are part of a close knit family that all care so much for the same amazing cause and I feel privileged to be able to work as part of such a passionate team and see the amazing results of everyone’s hard work when I come in to work each day.
The charity has come on leaps and bounds since I first started and although is is hard to say goodbye to our furry residents there is nothing more satisfying than reading the happy ending stories from their new forever homes.
Animal Care Assistants
Our wonderful Animal Care Assistants are made up of a team of loving caring people who make sure our dogs and cats are cared for in the best possible way. A mix of full time, part time, casual staff and evening lock up staff, they start early and finish late taking time to ensure we provide the highest level of enrichment and welfare. Many of our staff have been here for years and some of our team start as work placements form Universities or through volunteering. Working in Animal Care is a highly rewarding career and knowing that our animals have been happy during their time at Holly Hedge is everyone’s goal, however our team love nothing more than waving our animals off to their forever homes.. we usually shed a few happy tears along the way too!
The Reception Team
Our fantastic reception ladies (and one gentleman!) are what keeps Holly Hedge running smoothly, responding to all of our enquiries, dealing with our never ending phone calls, and making sure that the endless amounts of admin is up to date – all while with a huge smile on their faces and making everyone feeling welcome upon visiting the sanctuary and making sure that all of our lovely residents find their perfect forever home.
Nicky Leeson – Trustee
I joined the Holly Hedge family in 2010 as a volunteer Cat Cuddler & Dog Walker and was instantly overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of love and care given to each and every animal in the Sanctuary. When I realised the huge cost implications to keep the charity going, I started to get involved with the many different aspects of fundraising – and what better way of making money than being saved from the murky waters of Portishead Marina by a magnificent Newfoundland Rescue Dog!
Building relationships with the wonderful animals is both humbling and life-enriching, and there really is no better feeling than bidding a fond farewell to our residents as they leave us for a bright new future in their ‘forever homes’, especially those whose stay at Holly Hedge has been a long one and whose wounds have been healed and faith in humanity restored whilst with us. The happiness and unconditional love our pets give us is immeasurable; my own two adopted Holly Hedge felines – Snugs & Murphy – have really made my home complete.
Sandie Bingley – Trustee
I always wanted to be a vet, animal mad from an early age an elderly jack Russell named Nellie was a great pal. However, it was not meant to be…..I was not clever enough and certainly not brave enough. My career took a very different path and I spent my working life with children and their families.
When the time came for me to “retire” I decided that I wanted to do some voluntary work with animals and chose Holly Hedge as I had been involved with the charity many years previously and had helped with fundraising. In my previous work I had always enjoyed working with people and felt that I could combine this with my love of animals. I now work as a volunteer on the reception desk, where every day is different and brings with it challenges and at the same time huge rewards. When animals in our care find their “forever” homes with loving families it is just great! There certainly is a lot of happiness but sometimes sadness, it comes with the territory.
Everyone who works at Holly Hedge is passionate about what they do and are committed to doing the very best for the animals in their care. This is why I so enjoy being involved with Holly Hedge and being a part of this great charity.
John Hall – Trustee
When I was offered early retirement from a sedentary style job, I knew I needed to do something that got me out and about with regular exercise. I also wanted to give something back to the community, so was also looking at some kind of voluntary work. Lo and behold, right on my doorstep was a charity that answered those very needs. After a visit to Holly Hedge and seeing what a wonderful and loving place it was, I signed up to be a Volunteer Dog Walker there and then. This also satisfied a lifelong wish of mine to be involved with dogs as I can’t have one of my own.
In a very short period of time, I was very flattered and overjoyed to be asked to help run the Volunteer Dog Walking Inductions, and soon after to be allowed to become fully immersed in the day to day life of the kennels. In my opinion, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a rescued cat or dog finding their forever home with loving and caring new parents. Our rescues come to us for a variety of reasons that include change of circumstances to owners of much loved pets, to strays who are unwanted or abandoned, or to animals that have proved too much for their current owners. Every rescue is treated with absolute care, love and affection from a team of dedicated and passionate members of staff and it was, as they say, a No-Brainer when I was approached by the committee to become a Trustee.