Eulogy given by Kate Horne on 19 October 2018 at St Paul’s Church, Hadley Wood

It gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to Sylvia Keith today. I know you will all have your own fond memories of this fine English gentlewoman, always impeccably dressed and invariably polite. My own friendship with Sylvia was founded on a common interest in animal welfare. All I will say today applies equally to Ian, her devoted and inseparable companion in life.

My friendship with Sylvia and Ian goes back to the 1990s. The catalyst was a pregnant tabby cat sleeping in the doorway of an antiques shop in Paphos, Greek Cyprus. I could not resist talking to the proprieter of the shop, Christine Panayiotou, about the merits of neutering progammes for cats and dogs. Sylvia and Ian were already strong supporters of Christine’s charity, Animal Rescue Cyprus. They also supported another group in Cyprus, based on the Isle of Man, Cats in Need, Cyprus. On one of their many visits to the island Sylvia and Ian formed a strong attachment to a particular cat. They sought out the cat on their next visit, were overjoyed to find her, and promptly arranged to bring her back to the UK. Polly, as she was named, could not believe her good fortune.

Sylvia and Ian handing over an equipment donation to an Austrian animal welfare group at ICAWC

My next set of memories about the involvement in animal welfare of Sylvia and Ian hover over the International Companion Animal Welfare Conferences. Dogs Trust organises these conferences annually in the major European cities. Cats Protection is one of the sponsors. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were also involved in the organisation at an earlier stage. Some 300 delegates from all over the world come together to discuss vital issues arising from the management of cats and dogs.

Sylvia and Ian would always sit near the front during the presentations, anxious not to miss anything. In the breaks they enjoyed a detailed inspection of the local food on offer; despite her slight frame Sylvia was quite a ‘foodie’! However, most of all Sylvia and Ian revelled in the opportunity for networking – meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Especially the enthusiastic younger delegates, who are such a delight in the animal welfare world.

It is at these conferences that a small but influential charity, SNIP International, supported by Sylvia and Ian, plays a useful role. The specific focus of the charity’s work is the donation of specialist equipment – traps, baskets, muzzles, gloves etc – to animal welfare groups working overseas. To date over 1500 items have been donated to groups working in 75 countries. Sylvia and Ian seemed to approve this practical contribution towards solving the problem of just too many free-living cats and dogs.

Sylvia and Ian enjoy feline friend

My more recent memories of Sylvia and Ian are closer to home, which for me is Normandy in France. ASCA runs a neutering programme for stray and feral cats in the town of Les Andelys and its surrounding communes. Sylvia and Ian have stayed with me on several occasions. We visited the local sights which include Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny and Richard the Lionheart’s castle overlooking the River Seine. A highlight of their visits was to meet our local vets and especially the families who foster cats and kittens prior to adoption. Their eyes would light up as they were handed rescued kittens for cuddles.

As you can see the list of animal welfare charities attracting their attention and support is already long. Additions to the list comprise the Cat Action Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the PDSA. There are representatives from some of these organisations here today, many having travelled a long way, to pay their respects.

Thank you for listening to my personal – and necessarily brief – overview of the major and ongoing contribution of the Trust set up by Sylvia and Ian Keith to improve the quality of life of many thousands of animals in the UK and overseas. We – and the animals – are indebted to them.

Kate Horne, former Chairman, SNIP International

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