Nuneaton wildlife sanctuary where fox and badger are 'family' face £20k smell fine

  • ITV Central reporter Rosie Dowsing visits an animal sanctuary struggling with rising costs.

A wildlife sanctuary in Warwickshire says it's struggling with soaring winter costs and the threat of a council-imposed fine after a neighbour made a complaint about an 'odour'.

Nuneaton & Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary has cared for over 100,000 animals since it opened on Oaston Road in 2001.

The animals that cannot be released back into the wild remain under the care of Geoff Grewcock and family in his extraordinary household of foxes, dogs, deers, owls and more.

But the sanctuary could face a £20,000 fine after Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council served them an abatement notice in relation to an animal odour complaint in May.

Geoff says their appeal hearing was due to take place at Birmingham Magistrates Court in October but it was delayed, and a future date has yet to be arranged.

Geoff and his daughter Emma Hudson, who helps run the sanctuary, say it means more 'uncertainty'.

Geoff said: "They can't close us down, but they will just keep fining us and the limit is £20,000 each time.

"We're a small sanctuary, we can't afford things like that. So we may have to move."

Geoff, who has lived at the same property as his cohort of wildlife since 2001, says moving would be heart-breaking given how much he loves the community of Nuneaton.

He said: "It's horrible because this is my home. This is a lovely town with lovely people."

Geoff and Emma have already put measures in place to try and mitigate what a neighbour has called an 'animal odour,' including reducing the intake of wild animals by about a quarter.

Geoff Grewcock and his team care for and treat sick wildlife before returning them to the wild. Credit: ITV News Central

The uncertainty around the fine is made worse for the sanctuary by the soaring costs of vital supplies during winter.

Geoff said: "The cost has virtually tripled. Food, vet bills, medication, bedding - it all adds up.

"The heating cost is horrendous because we have to have a lot of heat lamps on."

The sanctuary is a charity that relies on donations from the public, and the community can respond to whatever they are appealing for on Facebook.

After a successful appeal for winter uniforms for volunteers, the shelter is now appealing for tins of dog and cat meat, along with wild bird seed or rabbit food.

The sanctuary is popular for family and school visits, with Sweep the Fox and Minty the Badger being part of Geoff's friendly entourage that also helps educate young people about wildlife.

These two animals are just some of those that cannot be released into the wild because they have been with the shelter since they were babies and have since been imprinted.

Geoff's daughter Emma Hudson describes Minty the Badger as her 'best friend.'

Emma Hudson and Minty the Badger who 'loves being cradled like a baby' Credit: ITV News Central

She said: "She was so small when she came in she was still suckling. She had to be fed by us and hand-reared, so she has become imprinted. But she's my best mate."

Geoff says some of the animals in his care would die upon release back into the wild.

He added: "The ones we can't release, we give them the best life possible.

"A fox in the wild has a life span of around one to four years, Sweep the Fox will have a life here of around 16 years."

However, most animals under Geoff's care can be released after he has treated them with medication.

He continued: "When you have an animal in and it's been really seriously injured, then you put it back into the wild when it's healthy again - it's a feeling you can't really explain, it's satisfying.

"Every fox that we have released has turned around and looked at us, as if to say 'thank you'. It's great."

Despite the challenges faced by Geoff and the sanctuary, he says he is determined to continue giving animals the best care possible.

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council has been approached for comment.

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