A VOLUNTEER who has dedicated nearly 50 years to helping animals has been nominated for a national award.

Murial Bird is a committee member at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary and has spent years fundraising for the organisation as well as giving talks at schools.

Dr Bird saw off thousands of nominations to be selected as a finalist in the animal charity volunteer of the year category of the Petplan and ADCH (Association of Dogs and Cats Homes) Animal Charity Awards 2017.

The former lecturer got involved with the Edenfield charity, which was set up to rescue horses who were being sent to France for meat, shortly after it was registered in 1969.

She said: “We saw an advert asking for blankets for the horses. At the time they were kept in old railway wagons. We used to get the blankets and then we ended up running shops in Stretford and Swinton.

“We used to go to an auction in Buxton on Saturday to buy things to sell, stock the shop on a Sunday and sell them all week.

“We would run stalls as well and held fundraising auctions. I was a teacher so would get the cookery teacher to bake cakes which we sold.

“Now I go to schools and talk about the work the sanctuary does, how to care for animals and what to do if they think an animal is being neglected.

“The children help fundraise and if they are old enough can come and walk the dogs.

“I go to the sanctuary every week and help out with whatever they need.”

The sanctuary is home to hundreds of animals. In the last year it has rehomed 443 dogs, 449 cats and 144 small animals.

“It is a big operation with 20 staff members. They do home calls to make sure the animals are going to genuine animal lovers. They do so much to ensure the animals’ future,” she said.

“If it is not working out with a new owner they will take the animal back and rehome them.”

Dr Bird said she has always been an animal lover and lives with a dog and three cats at her home in Stretford.

Of her nomination she said: “It was an absolute shock and surprise. I did not believe it at first. I rang them back and said ‘are you sure?’ It was a lovely surprise.”

Now in its fifth year, the Animal Charity Awards recognise the hard work put in by those in the sector.