FOR many it can be a struggle to set up a charity but it can be even harder trying to set one up during a global pandemic.

For Steve Belgrau, owner of the Pet Joint near Denbigh, the pandemic felt like the right time to take on such a task.

With business severely affected by coronavirus, Steve and his wife Megan were left with the rare gift of time.

Rhyl Journal:

Ruby arrived as Steve and Megan's first official rescue

So in early June, the couple launched PAWS - the Protection of Animals in Wales Society.

Supporters have already given their backing to two fundraising campaigns - one to buy kennels and one for cat pens - and collectively, more than £4,500 has been raised.

Steve said: “The charity has really taken off. It is amazing really, we are infused and excited to see the support.

“The last few weeks have been amazing but also really hard work.

"We've always carried out voluntary roles but have wanted to establish an animal rescue charity for many years now as that's where our passion is and that's where we know we can help, by using our skill set to make a real difference to animals in need. We can provide essential care, support owners in the community and educate the next generation on responsible pet ownership.

"We knew people would think we were mad setting up a charity during a worldwide pandemic, but that is what gave us the push to do it.

"We couldn't do it without our supporters and fundraisers. The community has been amazing, there's no other way to put it."

Rhyl Journal:

Sparkle is the second official new arrival

PAWS has been launched in response to the closure of various animal charities over the years, including the Abandoned Animals Association in Prestatyn.

The family have started as an an unregistered charity. Once they have set up their charity bank account, and have more than £5,000 in the bank, they can apply to become registered.

Already Steve has taken in Ruby, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and cat Sparkle.

Ruby was a stray and vets estimated she was about a year old. Sparkle was signed over to the Pet Joint due to her owners change in circumstances.

More than 300 battery hens have also been rescued and rehomed.

"As a business, we've rescued may pets before, but Ruby arriving as our first official rescue was emotional," Steve said.

"To see her condition was awful but to know we've essentially saved her life, and will be able to see her grow in both condition and confidence, that filled our hearts with love and excitement for the future of what we are going to achieve for so many pets.

“We have thrown ourselves in the deep end with launching an animal rescue charity during the pandemic.

“The charity we are launching we have been wanting to do for a long time but it has never been the right time. We were worried about the work load and how would we get it off the ground.

“It has been a big step but people need us now."

Rhyl Journal:

To date, Steve and Megan have rescued and rehomed 312 battery hens

"We have a list of more animals needing help but we can't do anything now until the pets we have in our care can go to new homes, once lowdown is eased, or until we raise the funds for the new rescue pens.

“We are currently unregistered but plan to become registered as soon as we can.

"The charity commission website states charity’s with a current income under £5,000 can operate unregistered until they meet the criteria which won’t be long for us at all."

The Pet Joint, which offers luxury pet boarding, has offered emergency, free of charge care for those who are ill, key workers or suffering financially during the pandemic.

Steve and Megan, who have children Ava, Logan, Riley and Harper, are not strangers to carrying out rescue work.

In 2018, they took in three Shih Tzu dogs - Rory, Teddy and Lucky - who found abandoned on on a busy road. The Pet Joint nursed them back to health before a huge appeal went out to find the animals new loving homes.

They also cared and rehomed four pedigree cats following the death of their owner; helped to rehome a Rhodesian Ridgeback, two Chihuahuas, a Cockapoo, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Steve added: “There has been a spike in animals left at shelters. People are worried about transmission, people have been losing their jobs and some people are thinking that we need to look after ourselves first.

"We have launched PAWS hoping it will go from strength to strength, especially once we get the kennels and cattery set up.

"We are working on a very reduced format because we can’t overstretch ourselves due to the licensing conditions even though we are launching at home.

“The rescue charity will operate as a separate unit completely.

“We are licensed as an approved home boarding service for dogs and as a cattery with our luxury cat hotel. We can only have a certain amount of guests to stay so its important that we stick to those licensing guidelines.

“We are fundraising to get all the proper stuff we need so we can to have it all on site. By having it on our own land we are close by and there is no rent to pay and no utilities to pay as we include it in ours.

“We plan to have two, maybe three kennels funding permitting, and three cat pens and two small animal pens.

“It will be a case keeping up the fundraising and getting people to still donate food and we can provide the care and all the amenities needed.”

To donate, to enquire or find out more, visit PAWS - the Protection of Animals in Wales Society on Facebook.