The Year In Review - Our Top Five Feel-Good Animals Stories

The Year In Review - Our Top Five Feel-Good Animals Stories

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on Dec 30, 2016

To many, 2016 has seemed to be quite bleak year. It seems that every other day is fraught with bad news – but some us prefer to take comfort in the knowledge that plenty of wonderful things have happened over the past 12 months, too. To round off the year on a high note, join us as we run through our top 5 feel-good animal stories!

Ex-Circus Lions Given A New Home At Shamwari

Brothers Jora and Black were once a part of a cruel trade. Taken in as small cubs, the two lions had originally been subject to a circus act which toured Eastern Europe and Turkey. The use of these majestic animals in such an inappropriate environment, is nothing short of abhorrent – so when the Bulgarian governments welcomed a ban on the use of wild mammals in circuses, it seemed as if the two lions would only be headed to a greater fate. Unfortunately, the lack of a ‘job’ in the circus left the big cats without a home, and instead they were left to languish in claustrophobic cages. Eventually their ‘owners’ saw light, and agreed to have the boys re-homed with the Born Free organisation in Shamwari.

Now eight years old, Jora and Black are living the lives they were always destined to have. Public support meant that the lions were able to travel 10,500 miles to the Shamwari Game Reserve, where they settled in wonderfully…and finally got to taste freedom! You can see the emotional moment the brothers stepped out onto African soil for the first time, by clicking the video below.

Animal Shelter Hosts A Children’s Reading Program – And Changes Lives In The Process

Over at the Humane Society of Missouri, a wonderful new program has emerged. The Shelter Buddies Reading Programme is an organisation on a mission, with a concept that is so easy to follow: young children learn to read to shelter dogs, bettering their levels of empathy (and confidence!); while shelter dogs discover the positives of human interaction, and thus are able to make steps towards finding their forever home.

It’s a known fact that shelter dogs have been through a lot: abandonment and abuse being just two contributing factors towards any shy pup’s emotional struggles. But by being read to by happy, non-threatening children, the dogs are able to break through those barriers of shyness and fearfulness; instead, learning that not all humans are bad. ‘We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them,’ program director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. ‘Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reinforce that behavior by tossing them a treat. What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through. They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.’

The impact this activity extends not only to the dogs, of course – the program has gone on to show that children love the positive effect that their calm nature has on these animals, and are able to learn important emotional lessons of their own. The participating children are all required to complete a 10-hour training program, in which they learn how to work and interact with the animals (under supervision.) And there’s a bonus – as soon as the kids have finished their course of training, they’re allowed back into the shelter any time to read to their new furry friends! Witness the heartwarming project in action below!

80% Of Dogs In This Malawian City Were Vaccinated In Just 10 Days!

The World Vetinary Service did something truly amazing earlier this year, by heading out to Zomba (Malawi) to carry out vital treatments on animals in need. Whilst in the city, they managed to sterilise a massive 220 animals; amputate the leg of one suffering mutt; repaired one large hernia; removed several tumours; healed countless wounds; and gave all 212 dogs treatment againsts worms, fleas and ticks. But the WVS wasn’t the only organisation making a difference: their sister charity, Mission Rabies, managed a staggering 6,497 dog vaccinations in just 10 days – that’s over 80% of all dog populations in the city!

The amazing work mentioned above is just the start of an inspirational three-year plan to eliminate rabies from the city – so not only do the animals benefit, but there is the potential to save countless human lives here, too.

Rescue Dog Finds Forever Home…And A New Purpose

Rescue Dog Lola

(Picture courtesy of

Sticking with the theme of ‘man’s best friend,’ we now turn our attention to one of the most moving tales on the list.

Eleven-year-old blue staffie Lola was found seven years ago, dumped outside of The Mayhew Animal Home during the middle of the night. With nothing but a bed and some old toys, Lola was in a sorry state…which was only discovered to be worse, when the team at the home discovered that she had recently given birth. Tragically, it seems that Lola was used only as a breeding machine; malnourished and still lactating, it was evident that her puppies were born, only to be sold on.

The team at The Mayhew Animal Home took good care of Lola, and within no time she was adopted. Her new owner, Charlie, says: ‘When I first came to The Mayhew I didn’t want a Staffie – in fact I wanted any dog other than a Staffie. But then I met Lola and she was as soft as butter. The first thing I noticed was her snuffling pig noises – she was so endearing.’

‘Lola is a really chilled out, funny and cheeky dog who is happy with life and is certainly no fool when it comes to getting the occasional biscuit off someone. She just loves swimming, paddling in the sea and going on trips to the beach, where she likes to run round in circles on the sand.’

Thanks to Charlie (and Lola’s other new parent, Ben), the lovely pup is able to live a charmed life – but loves to share her joy by taking care of others, too! She now dedicates her time to volunteering as a therapy dog for elderly residents at care homes, community centres, hospices and hospitals across London. Her gentle demeanour and peaceful attitude are great attributes, with owner Charlie saying that Lola’s role as a therapy dog brings ‘a lot of joy and wellbeing’ to all those she visits.

And Finally - Pandas Are No Longer Endangered!

Cute Pandas

That's right - China's national symbol is seeing an increase in its populations! The panda has recently been re-classified as ‘vulnerable’, with numbers increasing by 17% since 2004 – a far cry from the <1000 pandas remaining almost 40 years ago. This is a huge step forward for the animal kingdom, and we can thank social consciousness for this increase in numbers: namely, the Chinese government have played a huge part in keeping this species safe. By making solid efforts towards reforestation and forest protection/anti-poaching schemes, the government have allowed the populations of panda to grow. The cherry on top of this sweet story is the news that, for the second time since 2013, Atlanta Zoo’s own Lun Lun (a 19 year old panda) has given birth to twins!

While there is plenty to smile about, there is always going to be a need for further efforts in animal conservation - so if you're feeling inspired by today's tales, check out our project pages and see how you can make a difference, too!

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