AN ANIMAL sanctuary has hit back at claims it is unfit to operate.

Didcot Animal Sanctuary defended its care of rabbits and chickens after a woman who visited to volunteer wrote a 1,700-word Facebook post accusing it of poor standards.

Kriz Wood went to offer her help on Saturday after the Oxford Mail reported that a fire on the site had destroyed a caravan and three buildings, killing two sheep.

However the 26-year-old, who said she used to work for the RSPCA, ended up trying to give the owners David and Julia Vaughan advice on how to care for their animals.

On social media she later accused the sanctuary of breeding animals, keeping rabbits on straw 'soiled with urine' and feeding them bread which she said was unsuitable food.

She also said at least one of the rabbits was unwell.

She told the Oxford Mail: "There are just so many issues that proved to me that place is not a sanctuary at all."

Great-grandparents Mr and Mrs Vaughan, who started building the sanctuary three years ago, have defended themselves.

Firstly Mr Vaughan said he breeds bantam chickens at home as a hobby and sells the offspring for donations to the sanctuary.

He said the rabbit hutches are cleaned 'once a week minimum' and that he has fed rabbits on bread all his life.

Mr Vaughan admitted that at least one rabbit was sick but said: "That rabbit came to us like that with a bad eye – that is what we're about, they come to us like that."

He said animals were regularly taken to the vet.

Miss Wood reported her complaints to the RSPCA, and an inspector visited the sanctuary at Hill Farm, Appleford, on Sunday.

Spokeswoman Suzzane Norbury said the inspector 'found no clear breaches of the law' but offered advice on how to improve hutches and runs to ensure rabbits had enough space to exercise.

The community has rallied round to help the sanctuary since news of the fire and people have donated more than £5,000 on a JustGiving page set up. The sanctuary has said it is shutting down the page and instead has set up a way of donating on PayPal.

It has also now emerged that the sanctuary, which has operated as a registered charity, is more than 100 days overdue in sending its annual accounts to the Charity Commission.

Mr Vaughan said all financial records were destroyed in the fire.

He said: "We've got the Charity Commission on our back now but the paperwork was in a building that was burnt. That caravan was like our office."

Mr Vaughan said he remained convinced that the fire was an arson attack. Thames Valley Police said the fire was still 'unexplained' and an investigation was ongoing.

The couple announced in November that they were looking for a new home for the sanctuary because the owners of Hill Farm are planning to sell their land to the developers of a new Didcot technology park.