Accompanied by members of other Questers’ groups, Questers’ 9 enjoyed a day out at The Dogs’ Trust, Newton Tony near Salisbury. The Trust’s mission statement is “to bring about the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life free from the threat of unnecessary destruction”. Founded in 1891 it was previously known as the National Canine Defence League adopting the current name in 2003. One of their slogans is the familiar “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” and another “Toys aren’t us” which wasn’t welcomed by a well-known toy retailer!

The centre at Newton Tony, one of 21 in the UK and Northern Ireland, was taken over from PALS in 2000 with a rebuild in 2006 and is still expanding. The comfy kennels have inside bedrooms including under floor heating and a covered outside area with a large glass window looking out into the yard. They are tiered so that dogs cannot see each other and become stressed. Dogs come to them in three ways; handovers or strays, from other charities and from the dog pound. Their purpose is not to rescue, but to re-home dogs. The average stay is 4-6 weeks during which they are fully Vet checked, vaccinated, micro chipped and neutered. Dogs go home with four weeks’ insurance cover, a collar, lead, bed and a food sample all these for a charge of £120. There is a guarantee that if things don’t work out the dog can be returned. On average only 2% are returned which proves how well dogs and owners are matched and home conditions checked in advance.

The Dogs’ Trust never put a healthy dog down so The Shared Adoption Scheme is for elderly dogs or those with medical conditions when they pay all medical bills and give on-going advice.

There is capacity for 70 dogs and 422 were rehomed in 2016. An onsite Vet Suite is attended by local Vets who charge a fee, also a purpose built puppy block and a “real life” room with a settee, TV and doorbell sounds to acclimatise nervous dogs to home conditions. The trained behaviour advisors give life-long after care advice. There is also a grooming room, exercise areas and sand and equipment for play. A sanctuary area is for dogs with people issues for which there are four main trusted carers. These dogs are not rehomed and usually live long lives.

Outside services provided are education such as talks to schools advising children how to stay safe around dogs and at community facilities such as libraries and also working with offenders. Their Hope project with homeless dog owners will pay for Vet fees and talks are given to hostels. They also operate Lets for Pets helping people to find pet friendly rented accommodation and giving advice to letting agencies and providers. For those fleeing domestic situations a fostering service is provided.

The Centre at Salisbury has 27 staff and 50 volunteers and running costs are £2,016 per day! In fact each dog rehomed plus staffing costs £1,375 per day. Money is raised by various means – their charity shops (one in Upper High Street, Winchester), TV advertisements with a Martin Clunes voice-over, their website , Sponsor a Dog days, mobile units, donations and legacies, the latter amounting to a third of their income. All their food is donated by Pets at Home.

A frequent worry especially for older people is that they will die before their dog. So the Dogs’ Trust had introduced a free Canine Care Card, a scheme whereby the holders who die are guaranteed their pet will either be suitably rehomed or cared for in a centre for its remaining days.

Norma Goodwin