VOLUNTEERS at an Oswaldtwistle park petting zoo have hit back at claims that its animals are being neglected.

Complaints had been made about the wet and muddy conditions the animals at Rhyddings Park were being exposed to, with worries also being voiced that the rabbits, birds, chickens and other creatures were not being fed at weekends.

The most recent complaint was made by a group of dog walkers.

But Neil Mooney, from Friends of Rhyddings Park, which helps look after the area with a team of volunteers, said the mud had been caused by the recent heavy rain and that volunteers went in daily to make sure there was enough to eat.

He said: “We have had people in the past who have made complaints to the RSPCA about the animals not being fed, but where that comes from I am not sure.

“What happens is the pigeons come in and steal their food, but we also have feeders that are in the shelters and hutches.

“There are volunteers that go in every day and feed and clean the place, but the area is quite muddy because the weather has been very wet recently.

“It all depends on the time of day you go and what time the animals have been fed. Sometimes they will be having a great time, but in a few hours it will look like there is nothing there.”

A concern had also been raised about peacocks losing some of their feathers, but Mr Mooney said the birds naturally lost some of their plumage at this time of year because it is out of mating season.

The group also has plans in place to drain the area to make it less muddy, but has been struggling with financial problems. Mr Mooney said: “Funding is always a problem and you can imagine how disappointing it is for the volunteers to have a few people who seem to think there is a problem.

“Some people may have a rabbit in a hutch, but in the wild they would be in these conditions anyway.

“They are definitely all kept in the best conditions they could be.”