A charity that rescues racing greyhounds which could be destined for the food shops of China has been backed by a £500,000 fund run by a leading North Wales law firm.
Flintshire-based Almost Home Dog Rescue take dogs of all breeds but have increasingly found themselves rescuing greyhounds bred for the track who have failed to make the grade or have been injured.
Now the charity, which has a shop in Buckley, has received a £3,500 grant for exercise equipment and improvements at the small kennels they run at Nercwys, near Mold, from the Eric and Dorothy Leach Charitable Trust administered by law firm Swayne Johnson, which has bases in Denbigh, Ruthin and St Asaph.
Almost Home Dog Rescue’s Alex Nilan, a former bank manager, launched the charity three years ago along with Dave and Lauren Sutton, a father and daughter team of dog behaviourists, and they look after up to 12 dogs at a time.
She said: “We have up to six in kennels and the same number out with fosterers and many of them are greyhounds which are often bred in Ireland to run at British dog tracks.
“If they don’t make the grade or are injured then we take them if we can but they could be put down or even exported to China where they run there, are used for breeding and then go for food.”
Another source for the dogs that Almost Home Dog Rescue cares for are the puppy breeding businesses of Wales which face less stringent legislation than in the UK and where fashionable breeds like French bulldog pups can command prices of £2,500 a time.
Alex said: “French bulldog bitches have been overbred so much that they can’t give birth naturally and can only do so surgically and then only twice.
“We had two recently who had bred their quota with probably an average of four per litter so the breeder has made £40,000 but the dogs are now worthless to them.
“The whole business is terrifying. Greyhounds bred in Ireland will have their IDs tattooed inside their ears but if charities like us don’t take them then they could be disposed of with their ears cut off so they can’t be traced.”
For those dogs that make it to Almost Home Dog Rescue a kinder fate awaits with comfortable kennels, regular exercise and now a special enclosure with exercise equipment made from recycled plastic bottles to keep them fit.
Shaun Hughes, of Swayne Johnson, said: “The work done by Almost Home Dog Rescue is so important because this kind of abuse of animals can go under the radar.
“The Eric and Dorothy Leach Charitable Trust was set up in the 1930s and has assets of over £500,000 with the investment income used for annual donations totalling over £20,000 to a range of charities across Wales and into England.
“Many of these are animal welfare charities so we are pleased to help a charity like Almost Home as we feel that this would have been close to the hearts of the Mr and Mrs Leach when they set up the charity.
“Other organisations supported by the Fund include Chester Zoo and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, Wales Air Ambulance, Age Connects North Wales Central and the Alzheimer’s Society.”
There are 50,000 dogs abandoned in the UK every year and 5,000 of them are humanely destroyed but many have been kept in dreadful conditions although new legislation, known as Lucy’s Law after the King Charles spaniel who inspired it, has just gone through Parliament.
It means that that by next April it will be illegal for anyone to sell puppies and kittens in England unless they are the breeder but similar legislation has not yet gone through the Senedd in Wales.
The effect of Lucy’s Law, the culmination of a ten-year fight by Brighton vet Marc Abraham and animal welfare campaigners, will be that puppy farmers will no longer be able to raise animals in dreadful conditions and sell them through pet shops and other traders.
Offenders face having their pet shop licences revoked, an unlimited fine and up to six months jail if also found guilty of animal welfare offences but at present puppy farms in Wales can continue to operate.
Alex added: “Breeders are continuing to breed the animals because they are income but there are so many healthy dogs available and looking for owners.
“The problem is a lot bigger in Wales because there are a lot more puppy farms here and a lot more farmers who don’t neuter their dogs.
“The story we hear so often is that someone has a dog but can no longer control it and that’s because it is an unsuitable dog for them which has been mistreated at a puppy farm.
“We give a lot of talks at schools, local organisations and libraries about the importance of only buying from reputable sources and being a caring and responsible dog owner.
“This donation will be absolutely crucial for us in enabling us to provide better facilities here and to carry on our work.”