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These animals are my babies but they will have to be slaughtered; Juanita weeps for beasts she nursed back to health.

Byline: VIVIENNE AITKEN Exclusive

JUANITA Wilson is close to tears as she gathers some of her precious pets around her.

Every one of them was once a sad picture of neglect and rejection.

But 54-year-old Juanita has lovingly nursed each one back to the picture of health.

Now her pets could be culled as the country remains in the grip of the foot and mouth epidemic.

None of them is exhibiting any sign of the illness which has ravaged much of Britain's countryside.

But they could be wiped out in the "slaughter of the innocent" policy the government is now adopting.

The Ministry of Agriculture refuses to confer special status on the animals at Juanita's Mossburn Animal Sanctuary charity.

She has no words to describe how wretched she feels knowing she may lose her beloved animals.

The three sheep, 15 pigs, 17 goats and four cows may all soon be on death row.

The other animals she shelters - horses, reptiles, raccoons, rabbits and guinea pigs - are safe from the executioners.

But until the disease is controlled Juanita is unable to take in any more animals of any kind which may so desperately need her help.

She just daren't take the risk that an animal, car or human may bring the disease into her farm in the village of Hightae, near Lockerbie,.

Juanita is angry at the plans for a massive cull of 200,000 sheep but her over-riding emotion is one of pure sorrow.

Each one of the animals is her "baby", from the pot-bellied pig which comes to her house and knocks on her door looking for dried fruit to the 20-year-old cow which was handed over to her by the local Tibetan centre because they do not believe in the slaughter of animals.

But she admits to having two very special favourites and it would break her heart if they were killed.

She said: "There are two I have identified as the ones which will be most difficult for me to lose. One is a seven-year-old heifer called Joker who was a miracle birth calf.

"Her mother had already calved five months previously and, as cows have the same gestation period as humans, it just should not have happened.

"It is known, but very very rare, and the resulting calf isn't up to much.

"The farmer's mum reared her but it was too small to go to the hill and eventually they phoned me and asked if I would take it.

"Joker was so accident-prone when she was young.

"When she arrived here she fell into a slurry tank. I had to climb into the stank to put ropes round her so that the farmer could pull her out with his tractor. She loved me from that day.

"She is as gentle as a lamb and she will always come for a cuddle and to lick me. She would follow me around everywhere if I let her.

"The other one is a feral goat called Fran from the Newton Stewart area whose mother was killed on the road when she was just a day old.

"Fran will be six in April but I have had her since she was just a day old. I hand-reared her. She is a cheeky little thing.

"She lives with 16 other goats but always comes to me if I call her.

"I always used to think she either thought she was a human or I was a goat -- and I believe it was the latter. But I was definitely mum to her.

"All the animals are our babies. The others who work with me all have their own favourites as well, including some very endearing pot-bellied pigs."

Juanita's charity is, in part, aided by the lottery who pay for one full-time worker to help her.

She also has another four people on government-approved schemes and sometimes others in work placement from disabled charities.

The five workers were given the opportunity to stay away from work or to live in, as Juanita has banned any visitors to the premises.

She alone travels in and out for emergency supplies.

All five chose to stay with Juanita and the animals until the disease is brought under control.

But Juanita has vowed that if the cull has to take place, there will be no shooting to panic her pets.

She said: "They are going to have to put them down with injections if they are going to do it."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 17, 2001
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