Protecting Our Pets
Sarah Varley speaks to Lancashire business owner and animal welfare campaigner Kevin Horkin about the relaunch of his animal charity, The Pet Role Trust. Photography: Kirsten Platt
Animals have always been a huge part of Kevin Horkin’s life. He grew up on a farm and laughs that his first kiss was from a dog at the age of two. He now has nine French bulldogs, a Chihuahua, a 28-year old macaw, a yellow-crowned Amazon and four Sphynx cats, and has spent most of his working life trying to improve animal welfare.
“At 18 I opened my first business, an opticians in Manchester. A friend and I had just brought the first Shar-Pei into the country and someone who worked in TV spotted him and wanted to use him in a programme,” Kevin explains. “I began providing animals to all kinds of TV shows, including Coronation Street pets from Jack Duckworth’s pigeons to Mavis’ budgie, Harry. For the ginger cat that ran across the rooftops in the credits, 3000 people sent in photos of their cats for us to choose from, because by that time I had been given a regular slot as a pet expert on This Morning with Richard and Judy. It was great fun, answering viewers’ questions, covering Crufts and finding Britain’s most talented pets.
“The main reason I became involved in this was to ensure the welfare of animals featured on TV and also, especially with crime dramas, to avoid particular breeds of dogs from being demonised. I would suggest alternative breeds to those getting bad press in the tabloids at the time, such as Dobermans and Rottweilers. I truly believe there is no such thing as a bad dog, only irresponsible owners. I organised a march for more humane alternatives to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to have American Pit Bull Terriers euthanized and we succeeded in getting this changed to the neutering of all male Pit Bulls.”
Kevin became a columnist for the Mirror and his column Pet People is still running in the Sunday People. He wrote three books, all in aid of his animal charity, The Pet Role Trust, including Star Dogs which featured interviews with celebrity dog-owners such as Madonna and George Michael, and Pets & Personalities on Coronation Street featuring all the soap’s pet-owning cast. In 2017, Kevin was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to charity.
After many years of charity work, Kevin struggled to keep up the trust when he entered politics in 2010 including standing for Parliament twice, his motivation again being to fight for the rights of animals. However, Kevin is now relaunching the charity with a big focus on changing unfair anomalies in animal law. “It is wrong that living, feeling creatures are treated as property in the eyes of the law,” Kevin says. “Cats are particularly unprotected, with no legal requirement for drivers to report hitting a cat, or even to stop. We will be campaigning to change injustices on behalf of all animals, as well as promoting responsible pet ownership, affordable and fair veterinary provision and working with other great pet charities.
“We have secured the support of patrons including actor William Roache and MP Nigel Evans and now we are looking for trustees and volunteers. We would love to hear from professionals such as retired lawyers with legal expertise and anyone passionate about animal welfare who might be able to get involved for a couple of hours a week. We are hoping to open our first charity shop soon and we are excited about the difference we can make together for all animals.”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01200 423267 if you would like to be involved