AN elderly woman says the council has effectively closed down her ‘beloved’ 30-year-old animal sanctuary by refusing to grant her a pet shop licence.

Mabel Warner, 88, has run Water Fowl Sanctuary and Children’s Farm in Wiggington Heath, near Hook Norton, with her son Rodney for three decades.

Families who visited could see and hold animals as well as buy pets that had been saved or disowned.

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But after failing to meet animal welfare standards due to an increase in costs, causing it to fall into disrepair, Mrs Warner’s pet shop licence was refused by Cherwell District Council and she has closed the sanctuary.

Oxford Mail:

Mrs Warner said: “I’ve never had a headache in all my life and I’ve been a happy person all my life until now. I’m in a very bad state.

“Our troubles are nothing in comparison to what is going on elsewhere in the world at the moment but to us it’s everything in the world.

Oxford Mail:

“I opened the sanctuary to give people the sheer joy of holding animals because I’m passionate about making children happy - people loved coming here. I’m desperate to get it open again.”

Mrs Warner cannot now sell any animals until the site is renovated – with the barn needing thousands of pounds worth of work – but she cannot afford it.

Oxford Mail:

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People who have visited the site with their children have expressed their sadness at the news on its Facebook page.

Den Vinsen commented: “I’m sorry to see this. The waterfowl sanctuary is a lovely place that myself and my (now quite grown up) children love to visit. I hope this won’t be a permanent closure.”

Amanda Mates said: “My family have been coming to your lovely sanctuary for years and you’ve always been so welcoming and great with the kids.”

Zoë Danielle said: “I’m so gutted, I was really looking forward to taking my baby boy here just like my mum did with me... Really hope you get to re-open.”

Oxford Mail:

Cherwell District Council says it has been helping Mrs Mabel and her son over the years to ensure the site met the standards and says it is willing to helping them re-open.

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A Cherwell District Council spokesperson said: “It is wrong to suggest that the council has closed down the Waterfowl Sanctuary.

"In fact, our licensing and environmental health teams have supported them with detailed practical advice over the course of many years.

“Officers have worked hard to explain everything the sanctuary would need to do to meet the new welfare guidelines for pet shops, which came into effect in 2018.

Oxford Mail:

"It’s unfortunate that they have failed to meet these standards, leaving us with no option other than refusing their pet shop licence.

“The decision does not stop them from continuing to operate as an animal sanctuary and the council is open to continuing to work with the owners to help them meet the welfare guidelines and re-open the pet shop.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up by the public to raise funds for the sanctuary.

To donate, go to