The Animal Aunts Team
Animal Aunts comprises a team of over 400 pet sitters, who have a wide variety of experience in caring for animals of all types. The Aunts (be they female, male or couples) are all interviewed personally and we write to four referees for detailed references. We have never needed to advertise for Animal Aunts as every week up to 30 people apply. Animal Aunts may come from any walk of life and be aged from 21 to over 80. What they all have in common is integrity, honesty, fitness, a love of animals and the knowledge and experience to care for them. Whatever your needs, the Animal Aunts are flexible and will tailor their services to suit your needs. Animal Aunts are based all over the UK and are available to travel anywhere the job requires including abroad. We have cared for animals in Holland, France, Belgium, the Channel Islands, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan!
We have Aunts who can look after Kennels, Catteries, B&B’s and Rescue Centres whether canine, equine or feline! We can arrange full time Custodians as well as house sitters for Probate situations. Whatever your needs, phone Donna, Seonaid or Gillie for your own bespoke service.
How We Started…
Animal Aunts was created by Gillie McNicol in 1987 to provide a completely new concept of animal care, home care and security. Gillie had worked professionally with horses, livestock and domestic animals both in the UK and abroad. Between 1982 to 1984 she ran the Crete branch of the Hellenic Animal Welfare fund, owned her own pet shop in Crete and ran the Riding Club of Iraklion, Crete. Gillie has owned her own animals since she was a child and so naturally while in Greece for six years, she met and fell in love with a scruffy little dog called Zambia who returned with Gillie to the UK (via quarantine) and lived to be 20 years old. We are now on the ninth generation of “Greek Mountain Dogs”! Currently at HQ, Gillie has four dogs, one cat, nine chickens and five ponies. Upon her return from Greece, she worked with horses and started to take on one or two pet sitting jobs locally. In 1987 she found herself overloaded with bookings and began the process of setting up Animal Aunts; interviewing and taking on new Aunts to help her. The very first person to be interviewed is still an Animal Aunt today!!
Gillie was taken onto the government’s “Enterprise Allowance Scheme” which offered small-business start-up workshops and a small allowance for the first year. This was a great help and the business began to grow. Now, 31 years later we have over 400 Animal Aunts on our books, many of whom have been with us for many years, some for more than a decade!
In the office
After the first year or so Gillie needed more help in the office and was lucky enough to have the late Fiona Warstat to help before she married and moved to the West Country to become a hugely successful dog behaviourist. Then came the wonderful Ann Collett working in the office for 12 years before she retired, the late Roger Griffiths managed the accounts during those years, Anna Kenny and Sarah Ditcham were also key members of that fantastic team which helped to build our reputation. Maggie took over from Sarah, Gill took over from Anna and Donna took over from Ann and they formed our expert office team for the next 16 years with Kate covering holidays and maternity leave. They all had extensive experience caring for animals including horses, livestock and domestic animals.
2016 saw a major upheaval in the office. Poor Maggie had been ill since October 2014 and we finally agreed reluctantly that she would leave in May, meanwhile Gill who has also been an integral part of the team for 16 years decided to be lured away to work with her partner in forestry. So we bade very fond and sad farewells to them after being not just colleagues but close friends over the 16 years.
OFFICE Team from April 2016
Gillie, who has run the business since 1987, does all normal admin duties, such as answering the phone, chatting to new Clients and sending Aunts all over the place to their many and varied bookings, as well as interviewing all prospective Animal Aunts and Social Media.
Donna joined the office in 2001, rising to the challenge of becoming Company Secretary some years later. Donna deals with all of Animal Aunts accounts and as well as her normal duties of answering the phone dealing with new and existing Clients and Aunts as well as sending Aunts all over the country to their various assignments.
Donna has always been interested in animals from an early age having had budgies, rabbits, guinea pigs, a hamster and mice (and of course pestering her parents for riding lessons) then moving onto a Labrador cross and her brother’s Rottweilers followed by her own beloved Lurchers.
Currently she has a rescue Lurcher girl called Lady (though her partner prefers to call her Lou-lou especially when out in public! It’s a man thing!!!!) Lady comes to work with Donna, you will hear her occasionally singing when another dog enters the office, but she is a Lurcher so doesn’t move out of her bed unless the sun is shining!
Seonaid was brought up in Aberdeenshire where she grew up with dogs from the start, her first dog was a much loved Dachshund. Seonaid had various other pets, hamsters, rabbits and her brother also had ferret named Tiddles as she used to wee when she was allowed into the house.
After leaving school, Seonaid worked in equine establishments not only working with horses and ponies but dealing with other farm animals including pigs, goats, chickens, sheep and cattle.
She went on to study Equine Business Management at Hartpury College for two years, followed by a working holiday in Australia for 6 months working on a thoroughbred stud south of Sydney.
Seonaid joined Animal Aunts in 2000 and has been looking after Clients homes and a huge variety of animals magnificently for 16 years before deciding to settle down and join the office in April 2016 when the unexpected opportunity arose.
As well as admin duties (answering the phone and dealing with bookings) Seonaid deals with the recruitment of new Aunts and has taken over the management of our Social Media.
Seonaid’s home is ruled by their Miniature Schnauzer.
NB. Pronounce Seonaid SHOW-NID
Sam, Leah and Louise also provide holiday cover in the office.
Whilst Gillie, Donna and Seonaid all have slightly different responsibilities, the everyday phone calls, emails, arranging bookings, new Clients and new Aunts are dealt with by all three of the office team. They all have access to the same records from the brilliant new computer system, installed in 2015 and they use their expertise and in-depth knowledge of each and every one of the Animal Aunts so that they can select the most suitable Aunt to look after your home and animals.