Working together to protect hedgehogs
When Data Protection, Privacy and Cybersecurity Partner Kristy Gouldsmith first came to live in the UK, she was entranced by its hedgehogs, which don’t exist in her native Canada. Kristy decided to become a volunteer dedicated to safeguarding an iconic animal.
Kristy, tell us about how you’re working to safeguard hedgehogs.
Everyone finds hedgehogs charming, and I was just bowled over by them when I first came to the UK. They’re an iconic English animal. I come from Canada, and I’d never seen one. They’re just so adorable in person.
The rescue charity I volunteer for is called Prickles and Paws. It was founded by a mother and daughter team called Diane and Katy. It became a charity in 2017, and the rescue facility is just outside of Newquay in Cornwall, in Diane’s back garden. I’ve been out there to meet them, and it was such an inspiring visit.
We’re trying to raise 300k to build a state of the art “hogspital” for hedgehogs, and we’re hoping to get it built by the autumn of 2024. It’s going to be designed so it can be expanded for other endangered wildlife. As well as the veterinary facilities, there will be an education facility for school visits to highlight the importance of hedgehogs for children and young people.
How would I know if a hedgehog, or group of hedgehogs, was in danger?
If people see them out in the daytime, that is always a sign that something is wrong. That’s the kind of thing people need to be educated about.
What kind of health problems do they suffer?
There are a lot of things. Hedgehogs can get ringworm, which is transferable to humans and dogs, and that’s why there are limited people holding them and why people wear gloves when they’re handling them. They often have bad skin conditions. One example of a hedgehog we helped is Gordon (they all have names), who had lost all his prickles. We helped him to grow his prickles back. They know when you are being kind to them. If you brush the prickles, the hedgehogs kick their legs up to show how much they like it.
“Hoglets” are the babies, and they can’t be handled too much, or they would not be able to go back into the wild. The new hospital needs to be designed so that the wild nature of the animals is not damaged. Education and accommodation will be separate. It all designed in a clinically and ecologically intelligent way. They’re wild animals, not toys for show, and everything is designed to respect that.
The other major risk area for them is injury. They suffer injuries from people using garden tools irresponsibly, things like strimmers. The “hogspital” will have full emergency facilities for hedgehogs that have been hurt in this way.
What do you get out of helping animals in this way?
I’ve always been an animal supporter and I have seven rescue animals, including street dogs from Bosnia and Romania. In Sarajevo there are 5000 dogs living on the street. It’s a really lovely group of people I work with as volunteer Trustees.
Prickles and Paws is the only facility for hedgehogs in Cornwall at the moment, and its’ really satisfying that there’s already some significant medical care available for them there. The hedgehogs are treated by Katie and Diane, in nursing terms, and then a vet is brought in for the more serious cases. There are also incubators for the hoglets. When they get well, they’re released back into the wild, preferably where they came from, or to a bespoke release site where there are no badgers: because badgers are one of the main predators
Our approach is: Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release. We’ve never turned a hedgehog away.
What about wider campaigning?
I do data protection as a legal specialism so I can’t influence the law on this, but I do think there should be laws to prevent animals being treated as possessions, like breeding dogs for show in ways which are cruel.
Does being a Partner at Spencer West help you in your charitable work?
I can see why people join Spencer West LLP, because the founders are such nice people, and it’s such a flexible working environment. I looked at several Firms and none were even contenders, because I was so attracted by the ethos of Spencer West. It was the first Firm I talked to, and then I moved on to look at a couple more and they didn’t even come close. The culture of collaboration, and the Firm being so partner-focused, was just so attractive.
Thanks for speaking with us, Kristy, it’s been a real pleasure.
Find out more about Prickles and Paws and donate to their fundraising here.