BIG-HEARTED customers at a Stretford Mall travel agents will make it a Christmas to remember for homeless animals.

From donkeys to gerbils, rats to horses, lizards to dogs – they all need a good meal.

And staff at Co-operative Travel in Stretford Mall will make sure they get one as they launch their third annual Christmas food collection for the Animals in Distress (AID) sanctuaries in Irlam and Littleborough.

“We will be running our appeal up to December 15,” said Co-operative Travel manager Amanda Scott-Handley.

“We decided a couple of years ago to do something for the animals at the sanctuaries and asked people to bring in animal food, along with blankets and anything else pets might need.

“People brought in not just food but training toys, cages and leads and blankets. The response was unbelievable, people are so generous.

“The response was so good the charity had to make several calls to take away food. Even now the tables are full, we’ve been overwhelmed. Last year we found people calling asking us if we wanted donations even after we stopped the collection.”

Colin McCrory, Stretford Mall Manager, said: “Stretford is a very caring and strong community so it is no surprise to me that people rally round to help these animals and give a local charity such a welcome boost.

“Co-operative Travel does a wonderful job of organising the collection so I would simply urge our visitors to show their generosity once again and support the collection as best they can.”

Mel Dunn, who runs the voluntary sanctuary at Littleborough said the food collection by Co-operative Travel was 'fantastic'.

“By providing us with food and other items, the girls at Co-operative Travel make it less expense for us and the money we save on buying food can go towards meeting expensive veterinary charges and fees for dental work.

“It’s absolutely brilliant what they do. We have to take the van there several times to take away the food they collect. People really do seem to take notice of the collection which the girls organise,” said Mel.

And the food bill can be considerable. Apart from cats and dogs, Mel has 100 battery hens, about 30 horses, two donkeysl, as well as unwanted rabbits, gerbils, rats, pigs, geese, chipmunks, parrots, as well as the more exotic - including six bearded dragons.

The sanctuaries have a policy that no kittens or puppies will be re-homed two weeks before or after Christmas – to make sure they do not become unwanted Christmas presents.

To find out more about animals which need re-homing at Animals in Distress call Mel on 01706 371731 or email Visit the website to also find out more.

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