Police wildlife officer launches ‘Operation Santa Paws’

SantaPaws: PC Peter Baker dressed as Santa at a local RSPCA centre

A POLICE wildlife officer is making it a Christmas to remember for animals across the North East.

In his spare time, PC Peter Baker has launched Operation Santa Paws in a bid to support the RSPCA and other animal charities during the festive period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the fundraising efforts of charities across the UK, and having seen first-hand the crucial work that the RSPCA and similar organisations do, PC Baker wanted to help.

Now, after working with friends, colleagues and community groups across the North East, PC Baker has received hundreds of donations of animal food, toys and treats that he will deliver to charities and centres across the region.

“Every day through my role as a wildlife officer, I see animals that rely on the care of the RSPCA and other charities after being taken into protection or awaiting adoption,” PC Baker said.

“This year has been a difficult one with donations and adoption numbers having dwindled, but the reality is that these animals still need to be fed and watered each day.

“That’s why I decided to launch Operation Santa Paws where I’ll be delivering bundles of food, treats and toys to RSPCA centres and other animal charities across the North East this Christmas.

“The reaction has been amazing with hundreds of packages ready to be delivered already – and I’ve also been working with schools throughout Northumbria to help raise awareness of animal cruelty and the vital work that charities do to combat it.”

PC Baker has launched a competition in more than 40 primary schools in the region where pupils have been tasked with designing a poster themed around the prevention of animal cruelty and neglect.

The winners, to be selected in the coming weeks, will be awarded a range of prizes including an Xbox games console to sweet hampers.

The success of Operation Santa Paws caps off a memorable year for Southwick-based cop PC Baker, who recently received a British Citizen Award in recognition for his services to the community.

Now in his 17th year with Northumbria Police, PC Baker has worked closely with the RSPCA to secure a number of recent convictions against pet owners who have neglected, mistreated or abused animals in their care.

He has also worked with animal groups to deliver educational sessions at schools across Northumbria in a bid to inspire the next generation of animal protectors.

After receiving his British Citizen Award medal, PC Baker was last week congratulated personally by Northumbria Police Chief Constable Winton Keenen at the Force’s Middle Engine Lane headquarters.

Last year, PC Baker also received a Special Recognition award at the RSPCA’s Pawprints Awards in London in acknowledgement of the positive impact he has made on animal welfare across the region.

The charity once again paid tribute to his kindness and support after hearing about the Operation Santa Paws initiative.

Claire McParland, Government Relations Manager at the RSPCA said: “We couldn’t be more grateful to PC ‘Santa Paws’ Baker for his wonderful work in collecting much-needed food donations for our animal rescue centres this winter.

“His kindness and dedication to animal welfare is so heartening and we feel incredibly lucky to have his support.

“From our staff, our volunteers and every rescue animal in our care this Christmas, we’d like to say an enormous thank-you to him for dedicating his time so generously to helping us in such a fun and festive way, and for setting such a fantastic example to animal lovers everywhere.”

PC Baker is set to start delivering the donations in the coming days.

If you wish to make a donation, please do so directly to your local RSPCA centre. We would ask members of the public not to bring any donations into police stations.

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