They say you should never work with animals. But today the Duchess of Cornwall’s dog Beth put on a perfect performance with that most royal of traditions – plaque unveiling.
Beth, one of Camilla’s two rescue Jack Russell terriers, proved the perfect assistant as the duchess visited the Battersea Dogs and Cats rescue centre Windsor branch, to open the new kennels facility named after her, where she met staff and the charity’s supporters to thank them for their work.
Arriving at the centre this morning, Camilla, the patron of Battersea since 2017 and a long-term supporter, was greeted by the charity’s chief executive Claire Horton, and a canine ‘guard of honour’ of four dogs, who she petted before spotting Beth, who had arrived separately from her.
‘Uh-oh,’ she laughed. ‘Now Beth, you behave,’ she said laughing, as Beth jumped up to greet her owner.
The Duchess of Cornwall, 73, was left in hysterics today as she was accompanied by her rescue dog Beth during the visit to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home
The duchess, who wore a bottle green wool coat with a tartan collar by Mr Roy, and a doggy brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels with a doggy paw print mask from a member of the public, was taken on a tour of the new facilities which include state-of-the-art kennels and a special maternity unit.
Kaye Mughal, the manager, who has worked at Battersea for 30 years led Camilla around to meet several of the dogs and handlers.
Among them was Anya, a 15-year-old Chihuahua and her handler Karen Slavid.
Miss Slavid told Camilla how Anya came to Battersea five years ago when her elderly owners could no longer care for her, and was successfully rehomed.
Camilla was assisted by Beth as they unveiled a plaque on the wall of the new centre, with the help of a sausage to encourage Beth to pull on the string
Patting Anya, Camilla said: ‘Ah, she is so very sweet. Has she got a happy home?’
‘Very happy,’ Miss Slavid told her. ‘Good, I like the happy stories’ said Camilla.
‘I must say this is a very smart new place, with everything a dog might need, air-conditioning, everything.’
Next Camilla was shown the agility paddock where she met Jet, a three-year-old Springer Spaniel and her handler Caroline Sales.
Miss Sales invited the duchess to throw some tennis balls for Jet.
The Jack-Russell, who Camilla adopted in 2011 from the centre in London, enthusiastically lead the way on the royal visit today
As each ball was immaculately retrieved, Camilla said: ‘What a clever girl you are. Mine [dogs] never let them go.’
The duchess also met Olive, a Bichon, and her handler Ross Henderson.
‘You’re living in great luxury,’ Camilla said as she petted Olive, before joking about the plan for Beth to unveil the plaque at the end of the visit: ‘It might not be her forte but we’ll have to see what happens. Bluebell is relegated to the car, unfortunately, she’s hurt her leg.’
Camilla’s last pit-stop was the puppy training room, where she met 12-week old pug puppy Ernie, and his handler Sean Welland.
Instantly smitten by Ernie, Camilla asked ‘Can I have him?’ before scooping him into her arms.
The Duchess went on to hang a festive decoration on the tree of the Christmas tree at the centre
During her visit, the royal also gifted dogs in the home with presents which were signed from her own pets Beth and Bluebell
She carefully hung a dog ornament, featuring the words Buckingham Palace on its side, onto the stunning tree in the centre
‘Well I might have to take him home, he might just go in my pocket, or in the car with Bluebell.’
As Mr Welland showed Camilla how he had taught Ernie to ‘sit’, he told her the puppy had already been homed with Ms Mughal, much to Camilla’s disappointment.
‘Well you’re very lucky Ernie, otherwise I would have taken you,’ she joked.
Camilla had brought along some festive treats for some of the dogs, gifts from Beth and Bluebell for some of the Battersea residents, and handed over a stocking with treats from the Buckingham Palace Royal Collection shop including a dog toys, a collar, a bandana and a corgi Christmas decoration.
Camilla couldn’t help laughing as her rescue terrier clung hungrily to a sausage attached to a blanket used to unveil a new plaque in the centre
The royal was assisted in the unveiling of the plaque at the new Duchess of Cornwall centre by her pet
She then met the two architects from Jonathan Clark and Marion of Jonathan Clark Architects, who designed the new kennels.
‘It’s amazing, wonderful facilities,’ she told them. ‘It’s like the best kind of spa, I’d quite happily come here myself.’
Back in the reception area where Camilla was reunited with Beth, Clare Horton, who is leaving the charity next year, thanked the Duchess for her decade-long support of Battersea and presented her with stockings filled with doggie treats for Beth and Bluebell, before Camilla said a few off-the-cuff words.
‘Thank you very much for asking me to come and open these kennels today. I’m extremely touched that they have been called after me.
The Duchess’ dog Beth appeared enthusiastic about the treats on offer at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home today
‘So every time I come here I’ll be able to look at my very own kennels, hence the Duchess of Cornwall Kennels.
‘I would also like to thank everybody, everybody here, because I know how tough COVID has been for all of you.
‘Hopefully with the vaccine etc., we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel so things will start to improve.
But I suspect as they do more and more dogs and cats will start coming in and you’re going to be busier than ever.
Duchess met a Pug Puppy called Ernie as she visited the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to open the new kennel
The Duchess cuddled up with a pug called Ernie during her visit, joking that she wanted to take the little pooch home with her
‘So these kennels are going to be worth their weight in gold. And they’re pretty luxurious kennels. I wouldn’t mind spending a night in them.
‘They’ve got heating, air conditioning, everything you could possibly hope for. But again, I wanted to thank Claire very much because… How long have you been here?’
‘Almost 11 years,’ Ms Horton told her.
‘Almost 11 years, and now she’s going off to pastures new. So thank you very much for all you’ve done. You’ve been brilliant.
‘Now they say you should never work with animals, and now, with the help of Beth, I’m going to attempt how to unveil a building with the help of a dog.’
Camilla scooped Beth up in her arms and took her over to the plaque curtain, where a sausage had been attached to the rope cord.
The Duchess also tossed a tennis ball to another dog, Jet, during the visit, joking that her own dogs wouldn’t let go of the toy
Laughing as Beth grabbed hold of the sausage and pulled, Camilla cheered ‘brilliant’ as the curtain fell away, revealing the plaque.
But, job done, Beth was not about to let go of the sausage. ‘Anyone would think you’ve never been fed,’ Camilla joked.
Finally, Camilla hung a corgi Christmas decoration on the centre’s Christmas tree in the reception, and spoke to some of the charity’s donors via Zoom on a screen on the wall next to the tree.
‘Did you see Beth unveiling the plaque? That was a first,’ she said.
Ms Horton said of the visit: ‘We’re just tremendously pleased Her Royal Highness was able to come along today.
Camilla went on to present a Christmas stocking to Sandy during a visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Sandy the dog could be seen sniffing at the Duchess’ feet as she presented him with a stocking full of Christmas toys
The Duchess stoked at the puppy’s head during the visit, where she spoke to staff about their work amid the Covid-19 crisis
She has been supporting us for 10 years and just totally gets our work and what we do. She’s brilliant, because everyone she speaks to who is looking for a new dog, she tells them to come to Battersea.’
Camilla last visited Battersea Dogs and Cats Home Old Windsor, in February 2017 when she was announced as the charity’s Patron. She also opened the new Veterinary Hospital and Centre of Excellence at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home London in 2016.
The Duchess’ two rescue Jack Russell Terriers, Beth and Bluebell, were both adopted from the charity.
She has previously said of her dogs: ‘The nice thing about dogs is you can sit them down, you could have a nice long conversation, you could be cross, you could be sad and they just sit and look at you wagging their tail.
‘It’s something in the eyes…they look up with these nice, sort of warm eyes. They’re always pleased to see you.’
The Duchess has admitted that Beth and Bluebell are ‘allowed nearly everywhere’ with one exception ‘they’re not allowed to sleep on the bed’.
The royal is set to meet with staff at the home and will also speak to volunteers about their efforts amid the Covid-19 crisis
Upon arrival, the Duchess reached out to a volunteer who was holding a tiny pooch in their arms
Later the royal, who is patron of the organisation, reached out to stroke a tiny chihuahua being held by a volunteer
This year marks 160 years of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home taking in and rehoming animals in need.
In addition to the site in Old Windsor, Battersea also has two other centres- the iconic London centre and their smaller centre in Brands Hatch, Kent.
Battersea Old Windsor opened in 1979. The centre cares for around 100 dogs and 50 cats at any one time and in 2019 rehomed 1,159 animals- 632 dogs and 527 cats. There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at Battersea, but the average stay for a dog is 34 days and 25 days for a cat.
During national lockdown, Battersea temporarily suspended their routine intake of dogs and cats but remained open for emergency cases.
To help owners struggling with their pets during lockdown, Battersea also set up a dog and cat behaviour advice line and provided lots of video content online – everything from helping pets with separation anxiety to training dogs/cats, brain games to keep indoor pets occupied, and DIY craft projects.
Camilla’s rescue dog Beth bounded into her arms as the Duchess arrived at the centre in south London earlier today
The Duchess of Cornwall, 73, cuddled up with her rescue dog Beth during the visit to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home today, with the little pooch leaping into her arms upon arrival
Lockdown led thousands of people to panic buy pets for company, with more than 40% of people who bought puppies during lockdown admitting they had not previously planned to get a dog. In the three months April-June 2020, Battersea received 40,392 applications to rehome dogs, an increase of 53% over the previous three months.
This year Battersea also introduced virtual puppy training classes. The Puppy Programme is a six-week course of weekly classes held by Battersea’s trainers over Page 3 of 5 Zoom. Topics include obedience basics such as learning to come when called, to settle, and to walk on a lead sensibly.
The Duchess of Cornwall Kennels were built with the generous support of donors after Battersea launched their plan in 2017 to raise almost £3m to demolish and rebuild the centre’s oldest kennel block.
The facilities, designed by Jonathan Clark Architects, are the first of their kind across the three Battersea sites and are focused on providing mothers and puppies with the necessary facilities to reduce stress and infection.
The new and improved Kennels provide four heated blocks containing six kennels, each with an integrated run and glass frontage for natural light and fresh air, helping to reduce stress and maintain infection control, a chill-out room in each block, where staff and volunteers can spend time with the dogs in a more natural, domestic environment, dedicated puppy kennels and a separate maternity area, along with a special puppy paddock for socialising and play, new and improved outdoor paddocks for exercise, games and training, with sensory plants and agility equipment, integrated music system to play different types of music throughout the day, to help the dogs stay relaxed.
The royal wrapped up in a cosy emerald green coat for the occasion, and opted for a white face covering featuring a playful black paw print pattern
The Duchess wrapped up in a cosy cream scarf and wore her blonde locks in a bouncy blow dry style
The Duchess last visited Battersea Dogs and Cats Home Old Windsor, February 2017 when she was announced as the charity’s Patron
The royal appeared overjoyed to be visiting the home, where she rescued her pets Beth and Bluebell, earlier today
Battersea Chief Executive Claire Horton said the charity were expecting an influx of ‘Covid puppies’ as a result of frenzied dog buying during lockdown.
She said owners had been buying at inflated prices -sometimes up to £8,000-£9,000 – because they were stuck at home .
‘So many people have been saying they had not intended to get a dog, it’s a bit of an impulse thing and now they are finding the challenges that do come with owning a dog – it’s a tie, I have to take it out….’ she said.
‘I think we are going to see a lot coming in and the challenge for that is that rescue charities across the board have also suffered as a result of Covid. Fundraising has fallen, their shops have had to close…we had to send our volunteers and some of our staff home. We were working on very small numbers. It’s been tough.
‘Lots of people who have taken a dog recognise they are great companions and will llive happily ever after. They have been such a benefit during lockdown, in so many ways. But that’s not always the case.
‘But unfortunately it has also been the case that we have seen all common sense go out the window. And in the rush to get anything, the people who have benefited most are the unscrupulous ones. People have been buying over the internet, buying dogs from abroad both legally and illegally, that are sick and not vaccinated and have false papers. ‘Plus there is the whole issue of scam adverts where fraudsters are renting a property and using one room to show puppies to prospective buyers, pretending they come from a good family home .
‘People are playing vast sums of money in cash meeting people in a layby for a dog that comes out of the boot.
‘We want people to loved dogs and cats, we just need them to make good decisions.’