animal welfare volunteer who became known as a heroine of the foot and
mouth crisis says she has been told by the RSPCA that her services are no
longer required. Animal collection officer Diana Lewis who has worked for
the charity for 11 years, was famously pictured saving lambs from death in
a muddy field at the height of the foot and mouth crisis. Her specially
designed animal ambulance was paid for and is owned by the charity. Mrs
Lewis operated it voluntarily, collecting sick and injured animals, but
her service will finish today.
Despite working in her own time,
helping ill and injured animals the length and breadth of North Devon, her
bosses insist her role no longer fits in with the long-term strategy of
the charity which centres on the creation of the Animal Ark - a large
clinic - in Bucks Cross, near Hartland.
In order to convert the
existing building, around £100,000 is needed to be spent, money which Mrs
Lewis says could be better spent on animal welfare.
her redundancy came about as a result of her opinions on the Animal Ark
deal. She said: "All I care about is the welfare of the animals and I
strongly feel that taking on Bucks Cross will not be in their interests at
She added that she was sad to leave the branch but would not
stop her caring for animals.
"Of course I'm extremely disappointed
- I feel I have done a good job and done my best for the animals. I am
going to carry on with the help of volunteers and donations."
Pounds, chairman of the North Devon Branch, is championing the Animal Ark
and is adamant the board's decision to let Mrs Lewis go was in the
interests of the animals and long term future of the charity.
said: "The current situation has evolved rather than been consciously
planned, for all the right reasons - the animals. But now we have to make
sure that whatever goes on within the North Devon branch is agreed,
formalised and lawful.
"Diana Lewis has decided that she does not
want to do the routine branch work or have her time and safety managed in
the way we have planned."
She added that a new animal ambulance
service would continue to operate as soon as the new vacancy was
"The service will be different and more structured and
accountable to the branch. There will obviously be a few weeks when the
changes will affect the service, but we hope that transitional period will
soon settle down."
Members of the charity last night raised
concerns over the impact Mrs Lewis's redundancy would have. Former
Secretary of the North Devon Branch, Jane McPhee, who is still a branch
member, said: "When I arrived home from work the other day, my dog came
rushing out and started sniffing around in a nearby ditch. I called him
back, and found a rabbit in a very bad way, with its back leg almost
"I rang Diana, and she came over and took the rabbit
away to be put to sleep. What will happen to animals like this if Diana is
not able to continue her good