The Keep Your Pet service, which offers help for older and vulnerable people to look after their pets in times of illness, has celebrated a successful first year with a social event for volunteers to get to know each other.

Steering group member Ann Petherick said: “We were very much aware that with a new service such as this we had to start slowly, to get the balance of clients and volunteers right.

“If there is not enough for volunteers to do, they become disillusioned and go elsewhere; but even worse would be to have greater demand from older people than we could meet.”

In 2013 the group helped more than 20 pet owners, who between them own 20 dogs and seven cats.

One owner who benefitted was Sheila, who underwent an eye operation and needed help with walking her dog, Jimmy.

She said: “Jimmy was a rescue dog and can be unpredictable. Knowing that he is with people who are experienced with dogs gives me great peace of mind.”

Sheila and Jimmy are now both in good health and enjoying each other’s company.

Sheila said: “It is a weight off my mind to know that someone would care for Jimmy temporarily if I or my daughter were unable to. I think they provide a very valuable service.”

The group needs to raise money each year to pay for publicity, volunteer training and office costs.

A series of fundraising events were held during 2013, raising more than £2,000. They included a big band night, with music provided by students from the University of York St John, a pioneering pet church service at West Thorpe Methodist Church, Dringhouses, a car boot stall at York Racecourse, and a Christmas wrapping service at Debenhams, Monks Cross.

Last November, chairman Keith Martin completed the Machu Picchu Inca trek to raise money, and a sale of books and cards was held at York Hospital, raising £170. On April 27, the group will hold a sponsored dog walk on Knavesmire.

Other events planned include a sale of books and crafts at the Unitarian Church, St Saviourgate, York, from 10am until noon on March 21, and historic pub walks during the summer months.

KYP needs to recruit volunteers of all ages in York and Selby, not only to care for animals but to help publicise the scheme, and would like to hear from anyone who can give a few hours of their time.

Mr Martin said: “Don’t be put off if you can only offer a small amount of time – even a couple of hours a week can make all the difference to a housebound owner and their animal.”

For further information, phone 01904 726191 or email