ANIMAL welfare inspectors say they may have been able to help an animal sanctuary which was shut down by bailiffs if they had known about its problems in advance.

The Rainbow Ark Animal Sanctuary, in Willington, was repossessed from owner Paula Campbell on Wednesday (January 29) and bailiffs moved on to the site at Milkup Bank Farm within 24 hours.

RSPCA inspectors were called to ensure the welfare of the animals, assisting with the care, feeding and watering of the animals.

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They have now left, but in a statement, a spokesman said: "We became involved after receiving a call from the bailiff’s company, asking for our help, and knew nothing about this situation at all before then.

“We were not asked for any assistance with these animals prior to the eviction taking place. Had we known about this situation it might have been possible for us to help before it came to this."

The spokesman said vets attended to check over all of the animals on Thursday (January 20) to ensure that any requiring treatment received it.

“We took a small number of animals who were reliant on electricity for their welfare to a place where their needs could be met," he said.

“We are not responsible for these or any of the animals at the scene - they are the responsibility of the bailiff’s company currently, and are owned by Paula Campbell.

“We are satisfied with the conditions we have left those animals at the scene in.”

A guinea pig was put to sleep by a vet and the RSPCA has taken into care a cat and two ponies on medical advice.

Well wishers have flooded social media with calls to help the beleagued sanctuary and an online fundraising campaign has been launched.

The Save the Animals of Rainbow Ark campaign was started online with the target of raising £10,000 to cover the cost of rehoming the 350 animals.

The group set itself a new target of raising £50,000 and today (Saturday, February 1) the total raised was £39,386.

It was not possible to contact Ms Campbell.