IT IS no surprise to hear that charities and helping organisations have had a tough time throughout the pandemic.

Lack of ability to host events to raise funds, problems with advertising causes and services, and the general difficulties of changes to day-to-day operations have left many organisations in difficult circumstances.

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Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre (DBARC), based in Hurst, spoke to us on the difficulties, as well as the surprising highlights and positives, of having to give animals homes during a national pandemic.

Donna Penfold, owner of DBARC, said: "It's been really weird. Overall we've been lucky.

"No staff have yet been ill and we've been very careful, with incredibly careful safety measures.

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"We've had to change everything we do - we normally have the public coming in to see the animals and we have volunteers to help care for them, but we've had to stop all of that."

Donna detailed how due to the lockdown re-homing rates of animals has largely declined - furthermore, during the breaks between major lockdowns the rescue centre has been interviewing potential rescue animal owners online and over the phone as opposed to in person.

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She also detailed how operations have changed to skeleton staff, who work in small teams, and keeping the site closed from the public.

She added: "The strange thing is, and I hate to say it, but the animals actually prefer it.

"The animals like the peaceful life and the consistency of the few people they know.

"Many of the animals coming in have been traumatised, and pets are hot property during lockdown, as people want a companion, so rehoming has been very different.

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"The ones we've been getting have had serious physical or behavioural problems that need putting right, so to be able to do that in a more secluded environment has helped tremendously.

"Lockdown has had its very serious downs for us, as fundraising is harder, but for the welfare of the animals it's better. The lockdown has taught us how to do things differently.

"It's taught us perhaps we should be using or time a little bit differently and we will do from now on.

"We're going to keep some of the lessons we've learned from lockdown to improve the way we do things for the animals."

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Donna spoke to us about her favourite story of working for the rescue centre during the coronavirus lockdown in the UK.

She told us: "One amazing story was just before the first lockdown started.

"A dog came to us who needed a home, as his owner had died and the dog was homeless, but one of the staff noticed he walked strangely.

"We tried to get him to the vets but Covid had just hit so it took a while, but he was X-Rayed and it turned out he had a long term fracture of his pelvis, and his hip had healed wrong.

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"They couldn't do it for a while, as it was classed as non-urgent because it had been like that for a while, but he got surgery and at the end when he couldn't be seen we took him to physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, and through all that he got the a wonderful home.

"That might not have happened when we didn't have the time to do that to him. It means we could spend that little extra time to get Arthur as a well dog again.

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Earlier this month DBARC received £1000 donation after residents voted for them in a poll on which organisations should get a share of the funds.

A total of 4,123 Berkshire residents chose four local charities to be nominated to get the funds, and DBARC was named as one of the most highest voted.

Talking about the use of the funds, Ms Penfold added: "At the moment [the donation] is going to be used for survival.

"As im sure you can understand us charities have just had a really rotten time - we cant fundraise and our expenses are actually higher than they were.

"To us the donation is a real help - our excess of expenditure over income was £88,000 so it makes a huge difference to us to get a donation like this. It's one less drain on our reserves.

"We'll be spending it on vet bills and animal care, as rehoming has been virtually nil and has been very very low since last march.

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"We've had very little opportunity to fundraise, so when the vet bill does arrive it's wonderful we have that donation to go towards it.

"People care about us enough to vote for us to get this donation. we were only a small local charity and we did not expect to get voted. The voters are just people who care about what we do, and its incredibly uplifting to see."

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