Last year taught me many new and valuable lessons. I realised during the summer that we were neglecting many areas of the charity. Our focus has always been the care and welfare of the animals and I quickly discovered that this was the only thing we were getting right. I spent the last six months of the year on the laptop, under a pile of paperwork. Much of this has focused on gaining a deep understanding of the rescue's funding needs and how we can meet them. Being proactive rather than reactive has been the most vital lesson learnt. This year marks Nibbles 5th birthday and our overall goal is to make this our best year to date. We now have a firm foundation to build upon and a clear plan for the year ahead.
Funding is still our biggest concern as we enter 2020. The rescue is totally reliant on donations and fundraising to remain open. If we are unable to increase funding during 2020, our only option will be to decrease the number of animals we are able to cater for in 2021. This is the exact opposite of what we want to achieve. To date we are running at an annual deficit of £1,186 just to meet our basic running costs. This does not include vet fees for neutering and treatment for sick and injured animals. Before we are able to consider increasing numbers, we have to remove this deficit.
Our other concern has been the low adoption rates. For a long time we felt more like a sanctuary, rather than a rescue. During the summer we changed our website, and started to use social media more to help find more amazing homes for the animals in our care. I would also like to thank Lea at The Rabbit Residence Rescue for her valuable advice and insight. They have amazing adoption figures, homing well over 100 rabbits a year. If we could only reach a ¼ of that figure it would be a massive improvement. She works so hard on getting the rabbits seen locally and has given me many new ideas which we will slowly start to implement in the new year. We have already had very positive results, with animals finding amazing new homes and we hope that this will continue to grow over the next 12 months.
In 2017 we started to open up further space to expand the rescue and during 2018 added 5 further rabbit housing units. During 2019 we had plans to build further rabbit housing, a quarantine unit and a hay store, but due to our funding issues we have been unable to achieve this. Although we have not been able to move forward, the plans have not been abandoned, and this year we are going to focus on starting to make these plans a reality. To complete these builds is going to cost close to £5,000 and we hope that we will be able to start saving towards this during the year.
The hay store will enable us to bulk buy hay at the end of the summer. We've had 2 consecutive years where we have literally just managed to scrape through with enough hay. In 2017 the weather was so wet that farmers couldn't cut and in 2018 it was so hot that the grass dried out and died. In 2018 my wonderful neighbour was able to loan me a spare stable to store hay. If we hadn't had this the rabbits would have run out in March and left with nothing until farmers cut again in June / July. This was only a temporary solution and the stable is now home to horse and no longer available. So we urgently need to get our own store in place to ensure that the rabbits have a years supply ready and waiting regardless of the weather. We can currently only store 3 bales at a time in our little tin supply shed and this lasts approximately a week and a half.
The advantage of a dedicated quarantine unit for newly arriving rabbits is obvious. Providing a completely separate space with it's own dedicated supplies will greatly increase biosecurity and help reduce the time taken to care for rabbits in quarantine. Had this been in place when Luna and Lavender needed urgent help they could have moved straight into hutches, rather than indoor cages. The unit will contain 4 6ft hutches and 2 8ft hutches and rabbits will remain in the area until they have completed their vaccinations and neutering.
Lastly we want to increase housing for bonded pairs of rabbits, by building 3 new 6ft by 10ft enclosures, allowing us to cater for 3 extra pairs at the rescue. These units will be a larger version of our single kennel units but provide enough space for a pair to live happily while they wait to find their forever home. We currently only have 2 units suitable for adoptable pairs and a 3rd which we can use at a push.
We obviously have a considerable way to go before we are able to make a start on these new buildings. However, we will be running appeals throughout the year to help save as much as possible towards this big project. So any and all support will be greatly appreciated to help make these plans a reality.
Everyone involved with Nibbles would like to pass along a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us during 2019. Without it we would not be here, planning for 2020. I can’t even bare to think about the fate of the rabbits and rodents your support has provided for, if the rescue had been forced to close. I hope you all have a great 2020 and will be a part of our journey over the next 12 months. I will of course keep you all updated.