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Volunteers at wildlife charity shop subjected to abuse from shoppers angry about Covid-19 restrictions

Pauline and Keith Marley at the New Arc wildlife centre.
Pauline and Keith Marley at the New Arc wildlife centre.

Volunteers at an Aberdeenshire wildlife charity have been dismayed by the abuse they have suffered at the hands of people unhappy abut the Covid-19 measures it has implemented to keep everyone safe.

The New Arc wildlife and animal rescue centre, based north of Ellon, has a charity shop in the town.

Founder Keith Marley was forced to close the doors of the Bridge Street premises in March as the pandemic hit.

And in the months since, the organisation lost out on a great deal of vital cash it uses to fund its work saving the lives of all kinds of animals, great and small.

When the premises reopened Mr Marley said he expected shoppers to be happy to be able to support the charity once more but he said volunteers had been faced “unacceptable” levels of abuse.

To help customers feel confident, the charity put in place an array of restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

And although the majority of patrons have happily followed the rules, a minority of people who don’t like the measures, or didn’t check ahead to see what restrictions were in place, have subjected the hard-working team to all-too-regular abusive behaviour.

Mr Marley said: “The amount of people that have been very rude to the staff has increased since we’ve reopened.

“We have all kinds of Covid-19 protection in place, such as hand sanitiser, masks, screens and even a one-way system.

“We thought we had everything covered and everyone would welcome it, but we still get people coming in and insisting they don’t have to wear a mask, or sanitise their hands, and those people are often very rude to the staff when they’re asked to follow the rules.

“All of our staff are volunteers, so they really don’t deserve any of this nonsense.

“But it’s not just in the shop that I’ve noticed it.

“When I’ve been out on rescues the rude behaviour I have observed from certain people has just been absolutely unbelievable – and all because I ask they follow certain procedures due to Covid-19.”

Mr Marley said the charity’s shop in Ellon is “absolutely vital” to its income, but the charity still delayed its opening by a week in order to make sure the measures in place were sufficient to limit the spread, and staff and customers would feel safe.

He added: “We had months of really hard times financially with the shop closed, because it plays such a big part in making the money we need to continue our work.

“Sadly, with the lockdown in place, most of our ways of making money dried up.

“We’re not the kind of charity that goes out rattling our tin a lot, especially at the moment when there’s so many people and causes in need of support.

“Going out there to steal other people’s thunder isn’t something we’re keen on doing, so for people to behave so horribly to our volunteers in our shop is really just totally unacceptable.

“All of the folk in the shop, and all of the folk that undertake our rescues, are volunteers. There are no paid staff.

“At the end of the day, it is just disappointing because all we’re trying to do is what’s best for animals in need.”

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