In her day, one could probably consider Celia Hammond a supermodel as she worked alongside Joanna Lumley (who gained fame as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous) and Jean Shrimpton (who was at one point considered the “it” girl and is credited for launching the miniskirt.) This was London during the swinging 60s, but for Hammond, it was a life that clearly felt left much to be desired, The Mirror reports. For at least a decade, she was a successful model. She strutted the catwalks but detested it.
“I was a model for 10 years but I never liked the catwalks,” Hammond told the newspaper. “I did it for a year and I hated it.”
But For Celia Hammond, Fate (Otherwise Known As A Cat) Stepped In
She was on her way home to the flat she shared with other young women in West Hampstead, London. Then she noticed a cat sitting in the window of a dilapidated house. Hammond didn’t know it at the time, but this was about to be a life-changing event for her.
“I went back to the house with a girl I was flat-sharing with and we found the cat with her kittens and some had starved to death,” she said. “The mum was so skinny we rescued her.”
As she and her roommate were preparing to leave she spotted a woman feeding another cat. Hammond left the woman her phone number “in case she needed me.”
“That woman gave my number to someone and they passed my number on and before I knew it people were calling me from all over London asking me to help with cat rescues.”
The next thing Celia knew, cat rescue requests flooded in. As a result, she was canceling modeling jobs to help cats in trouble. This did not sit well with her agent.
“My agent told me I have to concentrate on one thing, modeling or animals so I gave up my job,” she says.
“I moved to Kent and was driving to London four or five times a week to rescue cats before taking them to a private vet who was absolutely brilliant and would neuter them for £3 each.”
Celia Hammond Is A Life-Long Animal Lover
Celia has loved caring for animals ever since she was old enough to do so. Therefore it was quite natural for her to begin caring for cats once again.
While her vet’s fees were low-cost, the bills mounted quickly.
“Cats were having lots of kittens that nobody wanted so half of them ended up out on the street,” Celia says.
“I did all my work through the generous vet, but it became glaring obvious that we were never going to get on top of this stray animals problem until people could afford to get their pets neutered,” she adds. “You won’t see any improvement until the number of unwanted kittens being born was tackled.”
So Celia Hammond opened her own clinic — The Celia Hammond Animal Trust in 1995 and adds, “we have saved hundreds and thousands of animals since then.”
She now runs two clinics in London that treat cats and dogs and has also opened a sanctuary near Hastings, East Sussex.
Photos of the Trust’s adorable charges via Facebook:
Did we mention the Trust rescues bunnies too?
Caring For Cats In The Time Of COVID
Her dedication and her commitment to saving animals has received many accolades including The Mirror’s Pride of Britain Award in 2003 and The Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards in 2015, but the charity is not nearly as well-known as some of the UK’s larger charities. The RSPCA and the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) come to mind.
As COVID continues to cut a devastating swath across the UK, the Trust has been hit hard. The pandemic has wiped out the Trust’s financial reserves. Celia, who’s now 80, tells the Mirror that the charity’s workload leans disproportionately towards helping, rescuing, and caring for injured strays.
The lockdown, she notes, has made the situation decidedly worse.
“It has been terrible for animal charities,” she says. “Everyone is hurting financially.”
“Animals were starving because the restaurants were shut, so there was no food.”
But that’s not even the half of it.
“I don’t think people realized how much animals were struggling during the lockdown as some animals became very injured,” she adds. “There are a lot of people who are trying to contact other charities now that the RSPCA’s animal hospital in Putney has closed down, people are turning to us.”
This is a truly sad situation. People living in the areas that the hospital normally serves now have nowhere to turn except the Celia Hammond Trust.
“We don’t have the name of the big charities but we sure have a big workload,” Hammond notes.
The lockdown has forced Celia to scale back some of the treatments (including neutering pets) in order to concentrate on rescues.
While the UK has since loosened some of the lockdown regulations, there may (or may not) be another one scheduled for this fall and one can’t help but feel sad about this since it’s been so difficult for Hammond and others to catch up.
“We did a lot of emergency work with strays and injured animals during the lockdown because we were allowed to but we couldn’t do anything more routine,” Celia says. “This means we are playing catch up with neutering animals.”
“It has been an incredibly difficult 18 months.”
Greed Enters The Picture
To make matters worse, corporate interests are buying up veterinary practices all across the UK. Meaning, of course, that prices for vet care are escalating. And also meaning that more pet owners are now looking to Hammond’s charity for help.
“Things have changed in the last three or four years since so many private practices were bought out by corporate companies which charge huge fees,” she notes.
“Something that would normally be quoted for thousands of pounds privately we do for a fraction of the price but there’s only so much we can do because we are one small charity that is funded privately.”
Celia Hammond is truly an amazing woman. She’s doing so much to help animals in the UK, especially as the pandemic continues. If you’d like to find out more about her organization, you can check this out. And perhaps donate, if you are able to.
In the meantime, we couldn’t resist adding a few more photos of her adorable charges. Enjoy!
Featured image: Celia Hammond via YouTube with image via The Mirror, North Downs Picture Agency