Pulborough’s Victoria Featherstone Pearce has had an eclectic career that has taken in modelling to starring in Stanley Kubrick’s last film – but her latest venture is her most important, she tells Mark Kebble
I want to start with K-9 Angels as I believe it’s ten years since you co-founded the charity. What originally inspired it?
K-9 Angels was founded by the three of us, myself, singer Pola Pospieszalska and TV presenter Anneka Svenska ten years ago. It all started from us seeing a plea for help on Facebook. The plea was from a rescuer asking for funds to help remove a tiny dog from a remote forest. I sent the funds to the rescuer and we rehomed the little dog we later named Angel. We were so elated to have rehomed this little stray so easily that we decided to start K-9 Angels. We thought with all of the contacts and connections we have between us, it would be crazy not to, so in 2011 K-9 Angels was born.
What was the early reaction to the charity like?
Well, K-9 Angels’ website broke under the strain after Simon Cowell gave us a huge shout out on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ back in 2014. I feel at the time we offered something different because there was a face to the charity and complete transparency. We were very hands on, doing everything from frontline dog rescue to raising funds and campaigning in Parliament.
How has the charity evolved over the last decade?
Our charity in the last ten years has achieved so much, especially considering it’s solely run by a small team of dedicated volunteers who each bring to the charity their unique skills and heaps of passion. We have rehomed over 1,000 dogs and some cats too. Funded a shelter build. Sterilised over 2,000 dogs, keeping the population of strays down. We send regular food and medical supplies to our network of trusted rescuers and we’ve raised over £600,000 to date.
Apart from being the co-founder and director at K-9 Angels, I’ve actually taken on many roles, all on a volunteer basis. Fundraising events and challenges that include cycling hundreds of miles, climbing Kilimanjaro (twice) and wing-walking.
I foster dogs and help prepare them (which is an absolute lifeline for them), before they go into their forever home. I handle most of media for the charity including TV, radio and magazine and newspaper interviews. Front line work in Romania helping with our sterilisation program and finding many dumped pups is part of this hands-on work. And now with our new angel, Jo O’Meara, onboard that’s just the cherry on the cake.
Today, what does the charity do?
Our main aim going forward is to continue our spay and neuter campaign, but on a bigger scale we recently purchased an animal ambulance and we can’t wait to get on the road and visit all the small villages in Romania that simply do not have the resources to sterilise their pets. That’s where the real problems are, with overpopulation of puppies, with many dying in the most horrific way. Just one unspayed bitch and her pups can have up to 67,000 puppies within a seven-year period if left unsterilised. This is why our sterilisation program is so vital and prevents mass suffering.
What help do you need?
As we are solely a team of volunteers with very little overheads we always desperately need funds. It’s easy to set up a regular donation or one-off, if you wish. We’ve been left two legacies in the past and they have been such vital help for us to continue our work. Building a solid team of volunteers can be a challenge too, so we are always grateful when people donate their time and skills. Buying our merchandise helps too, as 100% of the sales goes directly to help dogs in need.
How many dogs do you have personally?
At the moment I have seven rescue dogs. The most I’ve had is eight. Coco, Mica and Suzy from Romania, Harry and Dandy from UK, Koda from Wales and Hero from Bahrain. I don’t like odd numbers so I may have to adopt another, just don’t tell my hubby.
Have you always been an animal lover?
My whole life I’ve been an animal lover. When I was seven my dad brought home two ducklings which grew to be huge and they lived in our garden. I’ve been in love with all animals ever since.
Was there a key moment when you were younger that changed your outlook on life?
The key moment that changed my life as a child was most definitely bringing up our two ducklings and see them grow. It was then at just age seven years old that I refused to eat meat ever again. I had no idea what a vegetarian was. In the late 70s it was unusual for a child to be vegetarian. Let’s just say I ate a lot of spinach back then. It wasn’t until 20 years ago I learned of the dark side of the dairy industry. I became vegan overnight and I’ve never looked back. Best decision I’ve ever made.
You are from Sussex – whereabouts?
I live on the South Downs in the Pulborough area. For me this has to be the most beautiful part of Britain. I feel blessed to live here.
What do you love about the county?
We have everything here. Countryside and seaside, theatres and restaurants and we are not far from London which is an added bonus. The countryside is where my heart is and I feel most at home. I just love being surrounded by nature, so many open spaces and so many beautiful trees.
If you had to pick 3 places you love to visit in Sussex where would you choose?
Amberley Castle is absolutely stunning and steeped in history. Their gardens are just breath-taking and they offer a yummy vegan afternoon tea. Arundel is another favourite of mine. Again, so many places to go for a vegan lunch or tea, antique shops and a lovely walk by the river. Petworth is on our doorstep and we always love a little walk on its cobbled streets, visiting the antiques market and coffee and Cocos cafe. However, the list could go on and on, as there are so many wonderful places in West Sussex to visit.
How does your TV/screen work fit in with your life today?
My charity K-9 Angels has taken priority for the past ten years, but I’m still casting for TV commercials and acting roles. I’m way more selective to projects I want to be involved in.
What’s next for you?
A vegan documentary.