WE MAY like to be known as a pet-loving nation, but there are many who mistreat our furry friends and abandon them without a thought for their survival.

Thankfully there are the unsung heroes of the animal world who take unwanted animals into their homes and give them the love and attention they deserve.

One such woman, Sheila McLaren, from Colburn, is hanging up her catnip toys after 17 years of rescuing cats that have been dumped or just born in the wild and unable to survive alone.

She has taken in any cat, regardless of how feral or unfriendly, and nurtured them until they could move on to a new home – and she admitted to being very particular on where they ended up, preferring a home on a quiet road rather than in a busy housing estate.

Another animal lover who has won awards for her work in rescuing rabbits, is Gwen Butler at Bunny Burrows in Richmond.

Mrs Butler re-homes rabbits and guinea pigs that are well enough to make happy pets, and sends those that have serious and life-long healthcare needs to experienced foster carers.

She has been mad about rabbits for the last 11 years and has many of her own rabbits as well as lots that she cares for before finding them a new home – and admits to spending around £600 a month on vet bills, so is always keen to hear of fundraising ideas for her small charity run from her home.

Without women like Mrs Butler and Mrs McLaren, the world would definitely be a much darker place for animals that are alone and unwanted. It’s sad to hear Mrs McLaren is retiring, but she deserves applauding for her many years of dedication to local animal welfare.