Steve Jones talks Channel 4’s Animal Rescue Live

Steve Jones is to host Animal Rescue Live: Supervet Special for Channel 4 next month.

Steve Jones, on a previous venture with Waitrose

Britain is home to an estimated 16 million pet dogs and cats. But every year, some 250,000 domestic animals find themselves abandoned to the care of rescue centres. In 2016, animal charities reported sharp increases in cases of stray and unwanted pets coming through their doors, some dealing with record intakes. Now, more than ever, this displaced pet population needs help.

To highlight this plight, Channel 4 has commissioned a unique five-day live event with a call to action for the nation to provide forever homes for these displaced, deserving dogs and cats, rabbits and birds. The broacaster hopes to give the chance of a happy ending for each and every one, and to dismantle the stigma associated with rescue animals and encourage would-be owners to consider them first over buying a young pet.

Based in the Newcastle Dog & Cat Shelter, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick and Steve Jones will encourage viewers to go to their local centre and help make a happy life for a pet. Throughout the series, viewers will be directed to a special website and dedicated network of experts ready to advise and help them begin the process of adopting an animal. As the process of adoption commences applicants will be subject to strict protocols to ensure the safety of animal adoptees. The series was announced earlier this year under the title of Clear the Shelter. Channel 4 previously assisted animal re-homing from shelters via pet features on The Paul O’Grady Show.

What is Animal Rescue Live: Supervet Special all about?

Our mission statement is to rehome as many rescue animals as possible over the course of five days, five live shows, starting at 8pm every night, in August. We’re live for an hour, we’re going to ship as many of these glorious rescue animals as possible. That’s what we aim to do, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Rehoming as many animals in five live shows over five days is a tough task. Are you prepared for it?

We will definitely need to be working with purpose if we want to get it done in the time we’re on air. Any live show, there’s an electric energy to it, and I think the urgency of the situation will be reflected within the show. There’s a lot of animals that are waiting to become pets in cat and dog homes across the country, that are on a timeline themselves, so we’ve got to get it out there with urgency and show that these animals deserve a good home.

Are you looking forward to sharing a show with some unscripted, lively, animals?

Yes the principle message is ‘please help these animals’… but at the same time we can’t get away from the fact that we will be surrounded by animals and as we all know animals are an absolute riot. That unpredictable element of our show will hopefully showcase why you need an animal in your life – so the message should be more like ‘please help these animals because they’re bloody fun and they will make your life better!’

What have you learnt from spending time in these shelters?

Wherever you go, there are far too many animals in these shelters, which is saddening. Through no fault of their own they are waiting for the right person to walk through the door, and thankfully, there are a lot of professional people working in these shelters who rehabilitate these animals and get them into the best possible shape for when those who might want to adopt arrive. They’ve had lots of experience around people before you even get there, so they tend to be really sweet nice deserving animals.

There’s an animal for everyone, you’ll be surprised when you turn up what animal you might fall in love with. You might arrive wanting a dog and leave with a rat called Emile. I met a rat called Emile in Bath Cats and Dogs home, total sweet heart!

You might think, ‘I can’t have a dog because of x,y and z’, but there still might be a specific type of dog that could be suitable to you: a dog that doesn’t need human attention all day long, that you are okay to leave in your house for a few hours. My point is, you won’t know until you visit your local rescue home. There’s a right pet for the right person, you might just not know what that pet is until you go and speak to the professionals and explain your situation. Go to rescue home and meet these animals.

Are you looking forward to working with Noel?

I’m a huge fan of Noel’s show and what he does. It’s very rare to meet a legitimate genius, and Noel Fitzpatrick is my first. He’s super intense about what he does and that’s exactly what the show needs. It needs somebody inspiring that has a message of hope and love. I’m pretty sure he prefers animals to humans. So he’s on the right show!

Personally, I think he’s a National Treasure. This guy is doing stuff at his practice in Godalming that people come from all over the world to see. Things that baffle his contemporaries, if he has any. People bring animals from all over the world for him to help. He’s just a marvel. As for our show – It’s the first time he’s done live TV so that’s going to be exciting – to get Noel Fitzpatrick unedited, it’s going to be a treat for all of us.

Who are the biggest lovers of pets?

Most people. If you’ve got a heart in your chest and you like cuddling something that is cute and furry, you’re going to be an animal person. Occasionally there’ll be a bad element, who want to hurt animals for their own gain, or think of them as lesser than us, but I think people are generally good, and animals bring out the best in all of us.

They say Britain is a “nation of animal lovers”, and I truly want to believe that. In fact myself, Noel and Kate are counting on it. Let’s prove that it’s not just a line we roll out every time a story is written about someone being horrible to an animal. Let’s get these animals, who are programmed to love, out of these shelters and into our homes. We will all be richer for it.

From a glitzy Formula 1 pit-lane to a cat and dog shelter in Newcastle – would it be fair to say you’ve had an interesting career?

Absolutely, you have to be diverse, and selective, I always try and choose projects that I feel a connection with. I love cars so F1 was a no brainer, I love animals so Animal Rescue Live is a no brainer….as for Sex Box – draw your own conclusions, ha! Yes I’d say you have to be diverse nowadays in TV, you’ve got to have a few strings to your bow, so here comes the next one: doing a live pet rescue show. Bring it!

Animal Rescue Live: Supervet Special is on Channel 4 from Monday 7th August at 8pm.

Noel Fitzpatrick joins Steve for the series.