WALKING into the home of Kim Golding in Warndon, Worcester, is a bit like entering Gerald Durrell’s world of “My Family and Other Animals”.

Kim is nuts about animals – and so are her two young children. She and her friend Danica Clark are sitting on the sofa stroking and talking to a newly acquired couple of ducks called Crispy and Pancake!

There’s a hamster whizzing along inside a wheel trying to break some sort of speed record while another snoozes - oblivious of the frenzied activity; an African grey parrot called Zeus trying to whistle the chorus of Eric Idle’s “Always look on the bright side of life”; a couple of dogs including a very enthusiastic standard poodle; a pigmy hedgehog; two young giant rabbits called Ronnie and Reggie related to the famous world-record bunny Darius of Stoulton near Worcester; three guinea pigs; a bearded dragon etc etc etc. There’s only the partridge in a pear tree missing really.

Despite the size and diversity of this menagerie, an unexpected peace and harmony seems to reign over the house and garden where they reside. The animals are remarkably well behaved and at ease with one another as well as with their human counterparts, given that many of them are rescue animals.

And this is a massive advantage for Kim who is using many of them, including several small ponies and a donkey kept at another location, as therapy in care homes across Worcestershire and the West Midlands.

Her business called Encourage Animal Activity, is an arm of the community interest company set up by her husband Chris called Encourage Activity. He and his staff go into local care homes, day centres and other community settings offering and encouraging residents to take part in a range of games including skittles, boccia, curling, table cricket and balloon volleyball, tailored to individuals according to their mobility and interests.

While Chris was changing his career and started studying for a degree in Sports Coaching Science with Disability at the University of Worcester in 2010, Kim supported the family. She was an executive with Kenco.

Using her business knowledge, she helped Chris establish Encourage Activity in 2014 and took on some of the back office jobs like planning. Once it was running well she decided to give up her job to take a BA course in Entrepreneurship.

But Kim had always loved animals and she grew up in a home where rabbits, hamsters, dogs, birds and even stick insects were part of the family. She also wanted her own children – Sammy aged seven and Jasmin aged two – to have a variety of animal around them.

Kim said: “I heard something about animal therapy and thought it was a really good idea. I knew a bit about people living in care homes through Chris and his business. I had also seen something about a horse called Rupert in Shropshire which goes into care homes as therapy for the residents and he plays football with them.

“I started looking for a small pony to train and I came across a man with a small stud he runs near Droitwich as a hobby. He breeds Shetlands and mini horses. I went to see him and asked if he had one that would be suitable to loan. I started working with his ponies and building my relationship with them.”

Kim then decided to test the water by taking the ponies along to Henwick Grange care home on Hallow Road, Worcester, for its annual summer fete.

She said there was lots going on with a bouncy castle, children running around and lots of visitors but the ponies were really good and not at all disturbed by all the noise, people and activities.

“We took them inside into a room where they had a wander around and the residents were able to stroke and cuddle them. The ponies coped with it really well.”

Kim then introduced guinea pigs to her collection of therapy animals. They are long-haired and the residents enjoy grooming them.

The standard poodle, rabbits, bearded dragon, pigmy hedgehog and the ducks - once they are used to being handled and stroked - are all part of Kim’s growing collection of therapy animals. She hopes to be able to add pigmy goats, Kunekune pigs and alpacas in the future.

Dancia, an experienced senior carer in a specialist dementia unit, has recently joined Kim to help take these charming creatures into care settings. She brings her knowledge and experience of care homes and how animal therapy can benefit residents.

“I loved my job but I needed a change and I love the animals and working with Kim. It’s not like work really – I love it.”

Kim explained that the carers are very involved when they take along animals for residents. “They help people get the right animals and they get some benefit too. The care staff like to handle the animals too and they love seeing the residents light up when they see the animals.”

Dancia added: “I had some domestic staff joining in the other day.”

Kim went on: “It is a very special job. You cannot really call it work. It is such a privilege to be able to do it. I took the poodle to a specialist dementia unit and there was a lady who was very distressed but as soon as she saw the dog she calmed down and started talking about a dog she had owned.

“The animals can help with reminiscences. People with dementia can get a flood of memories coming back when they see an animal. It is an incredible thing to see.

“You might have someone who has not spoken in a while and you put a dog on their lap and they become lucid and start talking. Some of the carers have been close to tears because it is the first time someone has talked in months.” She added that all the animals are very placid and people seem to feel safe with them.

“I think animal therapy is such an important thing to have available. There is so much that can be done. Animal therapy is good for everyone, especially older people and dementia patients because it links them to the past and that is good.”