Thornberry Animal Sanctuary

For the neglected they continue to care…

Litters of unwanted kittens, puppies and rabbits dumped in cardboard boxes at the gate by greedy breeders. Sad, scrawny and sorry-looking dogs tied up to fence posts wondering when their owners will be back to take them home. Desperate pleas from the struggling public to help save an animal in times of need. Just another average day at Thornberry.

For thirty years, Thornberry Animal Sanctuary has been providing refuge for the thousands of unwanted, neglected, abandoned and abused animals that have found themselves in their care through no fault of their own.

Along with rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing the many animals that come to them, the staff at Thornberry Animal Sanctuary have also dedicated the last three decades to educating the public about the importance of improving animal welfare to stop so many other pets finding themselves facing an uncertain future in the kennels.

The sanctuary was unofficially started in 1988 and became a registered charity over 20 years later in 2009. Today, it is run by a team of professional animal care staff who are supported by trustees who take care of management, funding and finances.

Based at North Anston, Thornberry provides temporary accommodation and care for dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets until they go on to be adopted and find a forever home. They also have a 40-acre equine centre at Ravenfield where they take in horses and ponies who are free to roam around.

Over the years, the dedicated staff have notched up thousands of success stories by investing time, knowledge and care to help turn traumatised animals into altogether more contented characters.

Just last year, they found forever homes for 190 cats and kittens, 117 dogs and puppies, 42 rabbits and 23 horses and ponies.
Yet the number of cases they receive never seems to wane.

Working tirelessly every day to improve the behaviour of the animals in their care, the staff devote their lives to the many different breeds who find themselves on Thornberry’s doorstep with the aim of putting them firmly on track to better things.

Following an initial assessment, the trained staff look at health, social skills and basic behavioural traits after dealing with any immediate concerns such as illness or injury.

A training plan is then put into in place to tackle any deep-rooted issues that may have been brought about by fear, neglect or mistreatment which, if ignored, could entirely blight their chances of that longed-for happier life and loving new home.

Just like raising a child, instilling routine, manners and discipline can of course be quite a challenge but it’s a vital part of the process.
Young animals are carefully weaned from their mums to guide them towards independence while anti-social tendencies at any age are explored and addressed with effort and patience.

From the basics of listening to commands such as sit, lay down and paw, to helping animals with separation anxieties come to terms with being left on their own from time-to-time, the work involved goes far beyond a warm bed and a little TLC.

This approach continues at the equine centre where horses and ponies are put through their paces and properly prepared for tack – a crucial stage in their development. If not introduced properly, a bad experience can affect the animals for the rest of their lives, making them difficult or even impossible to saddle or ride.

Other thorny issues, such as a fear of horseboxes, can often be overcome with a little knowhow and gentle persuasion. It is surprising how even the most disturbed of horses can start afresh so quickly with just a bit of quiet and a calming routine.
Even after lots of training and hard work, the resident pets don’t profess to be pawfect; big or small, loud or quiet, most have a troubled and temperamental past.

But they also have eyes that see, hearts that feel and lots of love to give – with all deserving a happy, healthy future.


There’s Henry the eight-month old Rottweiler, a gentle giant who weighs over 50kg already. Due to his size, Henry’s owner could no longer cope with the demands of such a big dog and so he found himself brought to Thornberry in July.

He may look like a boisterous brute on the outside but appearances can be deceiving. He’s a loving puppy with a heart of gold who has a great temperament and is good with children. He’s a quick learner and is already house-trained but would need a strong and committed owner willing to carry on his basic training.

Many animals, like nine-year-old lurcher cross, Mabel, find themselves at the sanctuary for years, much to the confusion of staff who see these beautiful, loving animals every day. As an old girl, kennels aren’t the right environment for Mabel who suffers with her joints. What she really needs is a comfy sofa and lots of cuddles in a quiet, pet-free home – with maybe a few tennis balls to play with and a couple of short walks a day.

With any luck, she’ll follow in the pawprints of former resident Eggy, who finally found new owners earlier this summer. Due to his breed as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, little Eggy, named after eggnog having arrived at the sanctuary at Christmas 2015, was overlooked for more than two years until being adopted by a young couple who instantly fell in love with him.


Others, such as six-year-old pug Frank, find new homes quickly despite their issues. At his previous home, Frank found himself left on his own for long periods and was never toilet trained despite his age. His pee problem meant his owners had had enough and gave up on poor Frank.

Arriving at Thornberry in August, staff taught him the basics and his number of accidents quickly reduced thanks to lots of walks outside the compound. This old dog still has a lot of new tricks to learn but he’s an affectionate, cuddly fellow who will make a great family pet for his new owners who took him home in September.


Up at the equine centre, they currently have around 30 horses and ponies up for adoption, with the team of staff and volunteers helping to rehabilitate those who have their own sorry stories to share such as Max and his little mate Harry who were recently re-homed together on the edge of the Scottish borders.

Max had a traumatic start to life and it was touch-and-go whether the Thornberry staff would be able to save him. They received a desperate phone call one day to say his heavily pregnant mother, Brooke, would be shot if someone didn’t come and take her in.

Foaling mares are not meant to be moved in the six-weeks before giving birth and so Brooke had not been properly prepared for birth. Once she settled and felt safe at Thornberry after five days, she eventually gave birth but Max was large and made for a difficult delivery, even at the hands of a five-strong team of helpers.

With Brooke not having had chance to build up anti-bodies to her new surroundings, Max was born with a potentially fatal bacterial infection, causing him to be temporarily blind and deaf; he wouldn’t let his mother near him, never mind the staff.
Thankfully, Max survived against all odds – but at a cost of £1,000 to the centre. Now two-years-old, Max has come on in leaps and bounds and has made his way up north for a bright, adventurous future.

Keeping him company is his stablemate Harry, a previously wayward colt who also came to Thornberry under pressurised circumstances.
To keep him apart from a female herd, Harry had been left tied to a lady’s fence who contacted Thornberry as she was terrified of what might happen to him. On arriving at Thornberry, Harry was castrated and can now roam more freely and mix with the other horses.

With lots of work to keep them busy, the Thornberry team are always on the lookout for volunteers to help with fundraising events or in the onsite café and shop at Todwick Road which opens at weekends to help generate income. Those with more time to spare may also be interested in becoming a trustee and taking on a more varied, in-depth role within the running of the sanctuary.

But the biggest challenge at Thornberry now, alongside the day-to-day animal care, is to raise somewhere in the region of £184,000 to re-develop the kennels and bring the canine accommodation right up to date.

Animal welfare has improved since the 19-berth kennels were established 30 years ago and the need for drainage, heating, more space and better visibility so that four-legged residents can have the reassurance of seeing what’s happening around them is widely recognised. So too are the benefits of polypropylene cladding which will help significantly with hygiene and soundproofing, and there are also plans to develop the front of the site into a training area.

With a reliance on goodwill, donations, sponsorship and adoption income only just cover the basic cost of essentials such as vaccines, neutering, microchipping and general maintenance – there is no surplus for development.

To make life more comfortable for their canine guests for the next 30 years and more, the team at Thornberry now hope that their plans can be made reality thanks to help from the generous public. You can donate as little as £1 via text by sending KENN18 followed by £1, £2, £3, £5 or £10 or any amount you can spare to 70070.

Christmas is obviously a time when people feel the financial pinch but it’s also a time when we can think about how best to spend our hard-earned cash and make a lasting difference.

If you do consider adding Thornberry Animal Sanctuary to this year’s gift list, you can at least be sure that any present will be very gratefully received, which perhaps can’t always be said of our usual recipients. They are always on the look-out for new supplies and have an Amazon wishlist which they regularly update with necessities they may be running low on.

And remember that old adage – a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. No doubt after the festive bubble of new puppies, kittens and bunnies has burst, Thornberry will once again be inundated with new arrivals from families who may have made rash decisions and cannot care for their new pets.

If you are considering adding a furry friend to your family this winter – one you want for keeps – there are lots of happy faces and wagging tails who may be a little rough around the edges looking to finally find their forever home.

Support & Donations
To support Thornberry Animal Sanctuary in any way or to make a much-needed donation towards the kennels re-development, please
telephone 01909 564399, email donate online at