BARKS animal rescue charity is the cat’s whiskers

BARKS committee member Jo Allen with nine-year-old Bengal cat Cinnamon

BARKS committee member Jo Allen with nine-year-old Bengal cat Cinnamon - Credit: Archant

Giving innocent animals a second chance is all in a day’s work for this versatile volunteer team

Time out for youngsters on weekend cat care duty

Time out for youngsters on weekend cat care duty - Credit: Archant

We’re a nation of animal lovers, that’s for sure: but there’s also a minority who neglect or mistreat needy and vulnerable pets.

Fortunately, to combat this, the Cotswolds region is blessed with a range of animal rescue charities. One of the oldest is the remarkable and resourceful Banbury Animal Rescue & Kindness Service – BARKS for short – who operate across Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.

BARKS is small, entirely run by volunteers and raises all its own funds. At two rescue centres, the dedicated team take in, rehabilitate and re-home up to 350 creatures each year: cats, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs and numerous other small furries and wild animals. They also foster puppies.

The BARKS name – a clever acronym – is no accident: “Kindness is our watchword,” says BARKS chair Ann Collins. “We aim to be kind in all we do, not only with the animals who rely on us but also with people, of all ages, who support this relentless but hugely rewarding work.

Resident rabbit, Oscar

Resident rabbit, Oscar - Credit: Archant

“We’re combatting lack of understanding of what it means to commit to owning a pet. We save the casualties and attract and advise new owners; so everyone gets a second chance at a long and loved life.”

Jo Allen, whose day job is at Oxford University, has been volunteering with BARKS for three years: “I get enormous pleasure from caring for animals and seeing how we transform their lives,” she says. “I often work with members of Young BARKS at weekends, teaching them to look after cats. We have a great team spirit.”

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Cinnamon, a Bengal cat, was one of more than 150 friendly felines, of all ages, successfully re-homed by BARKS last year.

In 2020, the team is focused on fundraising in two ways: continuing approaches to businesses in the area (see picture story this page) and development of their legacy programme.

Jane and Kevin Wain with Maine Coon cat Alwin and BARKS chair, Ann Collins

Jane and Kevin Wain with Maine Coon cat Alwin and BARKS chair, Ann Collins - Credit: Archant

Ann explains, “At some other animal charities, up to half their funding comes from very kind benefactors. We’d love for BARKS to run in a similar way.

“These legacy gifts, no matter how much, are an incredible way to celebrate your love of animals. Donors can feel confident they’re going to protect vulnerable creatures, reviving their prospects for full and happy lives. Some people also choose to honour a much-loved pet by leaving a gift in their memory.”

Because everyone at BARKS is a volunteer, all funds are spent on animal care and they are always keen to welcome new volunteers and fosterers. Annual membership is £10 per person or £15 per family. To join or offer support or a donation, email or phone 07427 063178. Find out more at or on Facebook at


Curtain up on fundraising success

Generous Cotswolds curtain and upholstery business, The Track House & Curtain Emporium, has celebrated dual success – reaching a retail milestone and raising over £1,000 for BARKS.

Based in Blackwell, Shipston-on-Stour, the firm was bought in 2018 by Jane and Kevin Wain. Since then they have donated, with customers’ permission, quality pre-owned curtains to BARKS to be re-sold at bargain prices to raise vital funds. By coincidence, the firm has managed to display, sell and donate more than 1,000 pairs of pre-owned curtains in the same period.

Gorgeous BARKS mascot, Maine Coon cat Alwin, visited the couple to express his gratitude by cuddling up to them in their showroom. He is pictured here with them and BARKS chair Ann Collins.

Jane says, “Everyone’s happy – the BARKS animals who need care and treatment before they go to new homes and the people who get a lovely room makeover at a discount price.”