An animal rescue group in Havering has said it is caring for more stray cats and dogs than ever before.

Linzi Fallows, 48, a member of Pippa’s Army, told the Recorder that Covid, the cost of living crisis and holiday season were all factors.

Pippa’s Army, which also operates in Thurrock, is a network of animal lovers and volunteers who work round the clock to look after cats and dogs that are found on the streets or left behind by their owners.

They carry out a range of duties - helping find lost pets, trapping stray cats and dogs, neutering and feeding them, taking them to vets, providing them with shelter, making them suitable for adoption and finding them permanent homes.

They tend to about 65 cats in a month, Linzi claimed, but this number can vary depending on the season.

Linzi said: “There is nothing we do not do really, and it is all run by volunteers who have their own jobs, lives and families to look after."

She claimed that they often get cats that are ridden with many health problems. Their job, she said, is to give them another lease of life and nurture them with care.

Romford Recorder: Linzi Fallows of Pippa's Army pictured with rescue catsLinzi Fallows of Pippa's Army pictured with rescue cats (Image: Linzi Fallows)

She added: “Majority of our cats come in a state that no animal should be in.

“When they come in they are not in a place where you would like to pick them up and pet, but they turn into such beautiful cats. Just because they are strays doesn’t mean they don’t deserve another chance”.

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Their team has faced many challenges including rising costs, funding, and not enough fosterers.

But in the last few years since Covid, Linzi said that more people have been leaving their pets behind.

“All these cats at some point had been owned. But we don’t know where their owners are. It is heartbreaking to see.

“Every single dog rescue is full to the broom currently. I don’t understand why people think that they can just get a dog or a cat and then dump it like it’s a piece of rubbish."

During Covid, she claimed many people let their animals mate with some selling the puppies for cash, flooding the market.

She said: “People just can’t bother to neuter their cats anymore. Whereas before you would fight for your pet, now people give up easily.

"There is a throw away culture and I do believe Covid had a big role to play in it."

Michelle Giddons, 60, is a long-time foster carer with Pippa’s Army. She echoed Linzi’s views on the difficult trends in recent years.

She told the Recorder that at the time of Covid many vets were shut and animals were not being neutered leading to more pups being born.

Romford Recorder: Michelle Giddons from Pippa's ArmyMichelle Giddons from Pippa's Army (Image: Michelle Giddons)

She said: “Covid has done so much damage. The problem is people were home all day so they decided to get a pet but they didn’t make provision for when they went back to work.”

People, she said, started breeding cats and dogs as “money making schemes” but then found it hard to sell them.

She added: “It was ridiculous that people tried making money off these innocent beings and now we are left to pick up the pieces.

"The problem also is that once the pets are not cute anymore, people don't always take them."

Michelle has devoted a spare bedroom in her Thurrock home and her garage space for the cats under her care, but she is concerned that they are now running out of capacity.

Romford Recorder: Rescue cats housed in Michelle's bedroomRescue cats housed in Michelle's bedroom (Image: Michelle Giddons)

She said: “We do not want to be in a position where we have to say no to people, because that abandoned pet will come back more injured on the street in the future and we then have to pay the vet.”

The cost of living crisis has meant some simply cannot afford to keep their pets, according to Linzi.

She said: “People struggle to spend money on food and energy bills, they don’t have money to spend on a cat."

The adoption rates, she claimed, especially in the summer months have slowed down as families go on holidays.

In these circumstances, Michelle added, any assistance would be crucial.

She said: “We need more financial help, we need more foster carers and fundraising events. We need more people to come forward and adopt our cats."

To contact the charity, email