30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LABRADOR RESCUE TRUST
A MESSAGE FROM THE TRUST’S FOUNDER, JOHN D. COWELL MBE
It does not seem very long ago that my wife, Pat, and I discussed setting up an organisation to rehome Labradors that were in need of a forever home for whatever reason. Our discussion was in 1988 and, on the 25th November this year, The Labrador Rescue Trust will have been helping Labradors in need for thirty years.
The organisation was founded on the principle that, after a full assessment of the dogs and of potential homes by experienced Helpers, Labradors would be helped to find a new, forever home no matter what were their circumstances. It was also decided that the organisation should be manned by unpaid volunteers so that all funds raised would be spent solely on the welfare of the dogs – and this principle has been adhered to throughout all these years.
Originally, the organisation was called ‘Labrador Rescue (South West)’. During our formative years, we built up an impeccable reputation in the ‘Labrador World’ for the caring and professional way that we carried out our rescue work and, in December 1992, we were granted National Charitable Status by The Charity Commission.
I had always hoped that we could expand the organisation so that we could, eventually, cover the whole of the UK particularly as we had been granted National Status. So, in 1996, we decided to change the title of the organisation to ‘The Labrador Rescue Trust’. By that time, there were over one hundred volunteers working with The Trust.
As a start of this expansion, I agreed with the other Trustees that we would form an additional Labrador Rescue organisation in the South East of England as part of our Charity. In March, 1996, having written to many Labrador people in the South East, I held a meeting in Guildford, Surrey, in order to launch ‘Labrador Rescue South East’. More than eighty people attended the meeting and agreed to join us. Everything went well to start with but, within the year, it was found to be very difficult to manage another Region set many miles from the organisation’s base in the South West.
However, the attempt at expansion proved that it had not been in vain as the volunteers in the South East decided to continue with the work and, subsequently, formed themselves into three autonomous Labrador Rescue groups, viz. Labrador Rescue South East and Central, Labrador Lifeline Trust and Labrador Rescue (Kent). Their work has continued ever since and they have been responsible for helping many thousands of Labradors to find their forever homes in the South East of the UK.
The Trust has been a member of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) for some years now. Membership of the Association is only granted to an organisation after thorough vetting by the ADCH. Member organisations have to ensure that the Association’s rules are strictly adhered to so that all animals receive the highest care and welfare possible. We have also been acknowledged by the UK Kennel Club as a recognised Breed Rescue for some twenty eight years now.
A number of initiatives have been introduced by The Trust during our thirty years and I felt that three of the main ones should be mentioned here. Many years ago, we introduced the Microchipping of all the dogs that we rehome. A number of our volunteers across the South West are trained to carry out this procedure. This obviously continues today as, subsequently, in April, 2016, the UK Government introduced Microchip Legislation making it mandatory that all dogs must now be microchipped.
So many of the dogs that come into The Trust’s care each year are in need of veterinary care and, sadly, some need medical care for the rest of their lives due to pre-existing conditions. In order to help with this expenditure, our S.A.D. (Supported Adopted Dog) Scheme was introduced a few years ago whereby many kind supporters of The Trust pay a regular monthly subscription in order to help alleviate this expense. There are currently more than three hundred and thirty dogs being helped by the S.A.D. Scheme.
It is The Trust’s policy that all dogs should be neutered before being rehomed. However, it is often not practical to do this for various reasons. So, over ten years ago, we selected Veterinary Clinics across the South West of England where neutering can be carried out on The Trust’s behalf. Where this procedure is necessary, new homes receive a voucher from The Trust – which includes details of the individual dog and of the closest approved Veterinary Clinic – so that the new homes can arrange for neutering to be carried out locally.
During the last five years or so, the number of dogs coming into The Trust each year has fallen noticeably. The main reason for this appears to be that many members of the public are now using the Internet to rehome their dogs – perhaps also hoping to make some financial gain! In my opinion, this could be an utter disaster for some of the dogs as the public cannot be certain as to their dog’s future or its well-being. Whereas, by contacting The Trust, they can be assured that their dog will be carefully assessed by knowledgeable Labrador people who will find it a suitable, loving home that will cherish it for the rest of its life. We could not carry out the work that we do without all of our Volunteers. The amount of their free time that they give up in order to help the dogs is considerable. I must take this opportunity to thank every member of our team – the Helpers, the Fosterers, the Management and Administration Team as well as the Board of Trustees for their continued help to keep The Trust running for all these years. I must also thank everyone else who has helped The Trust either financially or in some other capacity. Without you all, the Labradors that we have so far helped during all those years would not have found the wonderful homes that you helped to find for them.
At the time of writing this piece, we have handled a total of 11,254 cases – an average of more than one case every day for thirty years!
As I wrote in a previous article, I cannot say that we look forward to the next thirty years because of the type of work that we do but we will continue to do everything that we can to ensure that we are always there to help any Labrador that needs our help. Our reward is to know that we have been able to help so many lovely dogs in their hour of need.
John D. Cowell, MBE