Dogs Trust – History of a great animal charity

Vowing never to turn down a reasonable request for help”

Dogs Trust was founded in 1891 as the National Canine Defence League (NCDL). From the very beginning it existed to protect dogs from torture and ill-usage of every kind and has always campaigned on dog-welfare related issues to ensure a safe and happy future for our four-legged friends.

Dogs Trust began operations funded entirely by donations from members and supporters. In 1902 membership totalled 1000 for the first time and continued to grow steadily to 6,500 members by 1910. Today Dogs Trust has over 600,000 members and supporters.

The beginning

A 'small party of gentlemen' brought together by Lady Gertrude Stock in a room off the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington during the first ever Crufts dog show, vowed to campaign for the protection of strays, the provision of proper veterinary care and to campaign against muzzling, prolonged chaining, and experimentation on dogs - a widespread practice at the time.

Vowing never to turn down a reasonable request for help, Dogs Trust began operations funded entirely by donations from members and supporters. In 1902 membership totalled 1000 for the first time and continued to grow steadily to 6,500 members by 1910. Today Dogs Trust has over 550,000 members and supporters.

Dogs Trust at war

Through both world wars when food became scarce and public opinion began to suggest that maybe dogs should provide food rather than consume it, Dogs Trust stressed the value of dogs as rat catchers, thus saving over 75 million tonnes of food per year. By making personal representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dogs Trust persuaded him to reverse his decision to destroy 50% of the dogs in the country. During World War I Dogs Trust paid for over 12,500 dog licences; a valuable help to families whose bread-winner was away at war.

The outbreak of World War II led to Dogs Trust issuing instructions for constructing a gas-proof kennel and gas masks for dogs through appeals on the BBC. Numerous leaflets were produced giving advice on coping with anticipated emergencies.

Another slightly more unusual illustration of Dogs Trust's war work was the collecting of combings from members' dogs' fur to be knitted into clothing for the troops. This was a very successful operation, which continued for many years.
The services of Dogs Trust were also advertised at military camps in the UK so that dogs who attached themselves to service personnel could be found homes when camps disbanded. They also found homes for volunteer dogs (messengers, guard dogs, rat catchers) when the war came to an end and helped with quarantine bills for dogs befriended by soldiers at the front and subsequently brought home.


The first Dogs Trust clinic offering free treatment opened in Bethnal Green in 1926 and by 1939 there were nine across London dealing with over 80,000 animal patients a year (the service was not confined to dogs).The clinic at Hackney was completely destroyed during the war, but was soon reopened nearby. By 1949 there were 13 clinics offering a full hospital service throughout the country. The last clinic closed in 1980.

In 2003, Dogs Trust changed its name, which was originally NCDL or the National Canine Defence League, to more accurately reflect the work that we now undertake.

Work today

Every year Dogs Trust saves thousands of dogs through its network of centres. They have 18 rehoming centres across the UK and Ireland, providing some of the best kennelling facilities in the world. They also provide for the neutering and microchipping of thousands of dogs every year and invest in the dog owners of tomorrow through an education programme for young people.

Over the last five years, Dogs Trust has invested nearly £2 million in education services. The group promotes responsible dog ownership using resources and a dedicated website to encourage children to understand the work, time and money that goes into being a good dog owner.

Dogs Trust Education Officers offer free interactive workshops for 7-11 year olds in schools and youth groups across the country. Over the last five years, 8,547 workshops have taken place targeting 256,410 children from across the UK.

Workshops encourage young people to explore problems of irresponsible dog ownership as part of the aim to reduce the number of stray and abandoned dogs in key areas of the UK and Ireland.

Working in the North East and North West regions of the UK, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland, Dogs Trust Education Officers use the theme of dog ownership as a means to help pupils develop self-esteem, confidence, responsibility, communication and teamwork skills.

Dogs Trust also runs several projects to support vulnerable dog owners and their dogs.

The Freedom project is a free foster care service for dogs belonging to women fleeing from domestic violence. Dogs in homes with domestic violence are themselves targets of abuse. In a recent study, nearly half of women reported that their pets had been threatened, injured or killed by their partners. Women are usually unable to take their dog with them into a refuge, so very often they don't want to leave their home until care is available for their pets.

The Dogs Trust Hope project is a unique scheme which has been helping dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis since 1994. The Veterinary Entitlement Card scheme provides free preventative and subsidized veterinary treatment through participating homelessness organisations and vets.

Dogs Trust provides advice for homeless dog owners on issues ranging from finding dog friendly temporary accommodation through to advice on welfare and veterinary issues.