Wildlife rehabilitation is defined as ‘the treatment and temporary care of injured, diseased, and displaced indigenous animals, and the subsequent release of healthy animals to appropriate habitats in the wild’ (Miller 2012).
Wildlife rehabbers have both legal and moral obligations. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary legislation which protects animals, plants and habitats in England and Wales, and applies equally to wild animals kept in captivity, or living in the wild, and by default, those in the care of wildlife rehabilitators.
One of the guiding principles of wildlife rehabilitation is ‘first, do no harm’, this is backed up by ‘The Five Freedoms’.
In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation, led by Professor Roger Brambell, into the welfare of intensively farmed animals, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison‘s 1964 book, Animal Machines. The Brambell Report stated “An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom Itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs”. This short recommendation became known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms.
The Five Freedoms have been adopted by professional groups including veterinarians, and organizations including the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The five freedoms as currently expressed are:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
At Hamworthy Hedgehog rescue, we take great care to ensure that all the hedgehogs that come into our care are individually assessed and their individual needs are catered for. Veterinarian advice or attention is provided when needed, and we seek advice from our peers if required. We are also happy to share any information with other carers.
All ‘our’ hedgehogs are treated with the intention of releasing them back to the wild, or in the case of disabled hogs, into protected gardens where they will be supplement fed if needed, and be able to live as natural a life as possible, in their ‘normal’ environment.