For almost three decades Linda Cunningham has been rescuing and caring for injured and sick hedgehogs. Born and bred in Beeston, Linda, who lives on the Southleigh Estate has grown the hospital considerably over the years. Her first rescue, 27 years ago was a 2 day old white-spine, from there her passion led to the building of her hedgehog hospital.
Despite very little knowledge or experience, Linda was determined to help these animals and became more aware of the massive need that has increased since she first started.
Linda singlehandedly feeds, treats, administers medication, takes samples and cleans for up to 12 hedgehogs at any one time and caring for these animals has become a full time job. Due to Linda not driving she is hugely thankful to her husband, Andy, who picks up those sick and injured.
In order to deepen her knowledge and understanding of the changing medication needed to treat the hedgehogs, Linda has completed two training courses, which have been invaluable and hugely beneficial.
Having the experience she has, Linda knows how best to treat these animals and always put them first, feeding by hand rather than injecting fluids, obviously a longer process, but far less invasive. I could hear her heart for these hedgehogs as she spoke about them.
She has always had a love for animals, her Dad would often find hedgehogs and bring them into the family home to care for. Like her passion, Linda’s home has become devoted to these animals, an increase in cages in her garden but also dedicating her spare room to those too poorly to stay outdoors. Numbers of hedgehogs being found and needing treatment have heightened: strimmer accidents and dog attacks becoming more common. Linda speaks of how hedgehogs are “voiceless animals” so we are often unaware of the pain they are suffering.
As you can imagine the cost of treatment, medication and equipment along with the time needed to care for these animals has increased as Linda’s hospital has grown. Heated mats are a lifesaver, juveniles often don’t have enough fat to survive outside, especially those born around September. Again Linda is thankful to local vets that have waived consultation fees at times. The council also agreed not to strim grass at certain times close to Linda’s home in order that the hedgehogs had a fighting chance when she was releasing them. Sadly Linda can no longer do this due to the building work currently taking place nearby. Thankfully she does have help from a family in Farnley that has a dedicated space to release hedgehogs into.
Due to a diagnosis of lung disease, Linda’s poor health has forced her to take a break from the hospital, but speaking to her last week she is already making plans to reopen in the Spring and taking in those she cannot find a place for.
Day to day activities have become a struggle, but she is hoping a well deserved rest will refresh and restore her for the New Year. Linda gave up work 6 years ago which increased her capacity for the hospital but this also reduced its finances.
The couple repaired motorbikes in order to finance the building of a new hedgehog shed, but this took most of 2018 to fund. Simply, these animals are Linda’s life and it hasn’t been easy making the decision to step back for a while. Especially at this time of year when the need is greater.
Linda is still available to give advice and signpost those in need, she has a number of connections throughout Leeds with other rescues and carers. She spoke about how supportive the online community are and how they help each other out as much as possible. Linda’s Hedgehog Hospital Facebook Page was set up almost a year ago, helping inform our community of her work whilst raising awareness. There has been a huge increase in care needed and many rescues in our city are struggling and often working at or over capacity.
How can you help? Contact Linda @Lindashedgehoghospital
There are a number of ways we can help Linda in her fight to keep hedgehogs in our community safe.
1. We can help raise awareness: share her work on social media, word of mouth, direct people who need advice.
2. Maybe you have time or want to learn more about how you can help in practical ways (government guidelines permitting).
3. Treatment and equipment is expensive and if you’re able to help financially this can be done in a number of ways: contacting Linda directly through her hospital’s Facebook page to make a donation. Alternatively there is an Amazon Wish List of equipment needed.
4. Maybe you have a fundraising idea you’d like to share and help with.
There is a definite and desperate need for the work Linda does to continue. So if you’re able to dedicate some time, finances or equipment it would be really appreciated.
This post was written by Claire Carter
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