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Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne wins last-minute planning reprieve as two puppies dumped at its gate


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A sanctuary that cares for 450 abandoned animals has won a last-minute stay of execution after facing the threat of closure just days before Christmas.

Swale council planners had recommended the Happy Pants Ranch's retrospective application - to change the use of its 20-acre site in Iwade Lane, Bobbing, near Sittingbourne from agricultural to a shelter - be turned down.

Cute: These two lurcher pups were found abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne just before Christmas. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
Cute: These two lurcher pups were found abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne just before Christmas. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants

It would have left the charity's future, and that of its animals, hanging in the balance.

But last week councillors opted to defer a decision for three months.

Founder Amey James said: "We are still in limbo but hopefully this means we can rectify the issues and then they will have no reasons to refuse it."

The news came just as two shivering lurcher puppies were abandoned in a cardboard box outside the sanctuary's gates.

Amey, 36, said: "The responsibility of looking after them isn't exactly what we need right now with so much stress going on with the council but we would never turn a needy animal away.

These two lurcher pups were found abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants (53713297)
These two lurcher pups were found abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants (53713297)
Having a bath: this lurcher pup was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
Having a bath: this lurcher pup was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
This deaf and blind girl pup was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
This deaf and blind girl pup was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants

"I'm just happy they came here and we can help them.

"Clearly, they have not come from the best of homes as the smell was terrible and they were absolutely starving.

"They had no blanket or towel in with them - not even a sheet of newspaper.

"You could see the boy's ribs sticking out," she said.

The larger pup, a girl, is blind and deaf while the other has a limp from a previous injury. Both are between eight and 12 weeks old.

Curling up: This lurcher pup snuggled up with Amey James was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
Curling up: This lurcher pup snuggled up with Amey James was one of two abandoned in a cardboard box outside Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Sittingbourne. Picture: Amey James/HappyPants
Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch at Bobbing with another rescued dog
Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch at Bobbing with another rescued dog

Amey said: "It's most likely they were bred for either hunting or selling and these were the two rejects.

"As soon as I brought them in they were warmed up, fed, given a flea bath and then snuggled up on the sofa, probably content for the first time in their little lives. In fact, the little boy decided to sleep the first night wrapped around my neck like a scarf. I think they know they are safe now."

The rescue centre, founded 10 years ago, has faced troubles since it was forced to move from its previous site in Stockbury, in January.

It was threatened with fines and enforcement action after neighbours complained about the noise made by its cockerels.

Then its planning application was initially rejected as part of a glitch when a junior council official accidentally determined a number of applications with sarcastic comments, thinking they were testing the website and would not be published.

The Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Iwade Lane, Bobbing
The Happy Pants Ranch animal sanctuary in Iwade Lane, Bobbing
Happy Pants founder Amey James with some of her noisy chickens in Iwade Lane, Bobbing
Happy Pants founder Amey James with some of her noisy chickens in Iwade Lane, Bobbing

The most recent rejection was on environmental health grounds and because of the site's proximity to an ancient woodland. It will now be determined on February 10.

Amey said: "Things could have been a lot worse. Hopefully, this means we can rectify the issues and they'll have no reason to refuse it."

She is now asking animal lovers to name her two new arrivals - and help pay for their upkeep and vet's bills at the same time. She said: “We just know them as the Christmas puppies. Two festive names might be nice."

Her Facebook fundraising site has already raised almost £2,000 for the pups.

Donations can also be sent via PayPal to amey@happypants.co.uk or direct to the charity's bank account: The Happy Pants Ranch, bank code 30 98 97 account number 40133168, ref Xmas Puppies.

Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch at Bobbing with cockerel and goat
Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch at Bobbing with cockerel and goat

The sanctuary is currently home to 450 animals including 19 pigs, seven dogs, 28 cats, 34 turtles and terrapins, a flock of 40 geese and ducks, nearly 100 chickens and cockerels, nine cows, 15 sheep, 17 goats, two emus, 32 guinea pigs, three snakes, two lizards, six ponies, a peacock and 50 goldfish.

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