As is tradition for us on New Year’s Eve, our Founder and Senior Head of Operations, Vanessa Waddon, reflects on the highs and lows of the last year, and also looks forward to our plans for next year.

“I can honestly say, this year has been the most challenging we have ever faced in our 18-year history.

The huge rise in dogs purchased during the pandemic followed by the cost-of-living crisis has created an unprecedented demand for our services. But, thanks to your generous support, we were able to help 789 dogs, up from 664 last year, almost a 20% increase. 

We continue to stay true to our founding values, taking in 475 stray dogs irrespective of age, breed, or health. We’re also proud of our ground-breaking collaboration with local authority licensing teams clamping down on puppy farming – this year we helped them remove 139 dogs from low welfare and illegal breeders, many of which were living in appalling conditions.  

Capacity has been a significant issue this year, with our rescue centre and wonderful foster homes continually full. This has been due to not only the volume of dogs coming into our care, but also that many of them are staying longer due to behavioural and/or health issues. Even though our resources have been stretched to the limit, we decided to also pay for commercial boarding to ensure the continued safety of the unclaimed strays from Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, and Blaenau Gwent.  

Providing the highest standards of care for our dogs has been important, and we were proud to receive the RSPCA Pawprints Gold Award once again for our statutory kennelling services.

We’ve continued to invest in improving the rescue centre, and were delighted to receive National Lottery funding to create a new reception area and indoor training facility. The works are currently underway and should be completed in Spring 2024.  

We’re also grateful to the Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust, Vanzone, and Black Lion Roofing for providing funding for our shiny new van. We were proud to host the ADCH quarterly meeting in November and saw over 55 rescue colleagues visit the centre for a tour.   

ADCH colleagues visited the rescue centre

With the cost-of-living crisis impacting both our own running costs and donations, financial sustainability has been a challenge.

Having operated at a loss last year, it was vital we invested in our fundraising resources this year and we are grateful to the Pets Foundation for funding one of the new posts. We also opened our new charity shop in Merthyr Tydfil and completed the lease for our new Pontyclun shop which will open in January 2024.

Our Merthyr charity shop opened this year

This year our advocacy voice has been needed more than ever. We attended Parliamentary drop-in sessions for MPs to discuss the state of rescue in the UK, and to advocate for more effective, breed-neutral dog control legislation.

We were proud to join the Dog Control Coalition (DCC), and were then devastated in September when the UK Government announced the ban on XL Bullies. As a stray dog rescue this will hit us hard.

Since the announcement we have worked incredibly hard to lobby the government as a member of the DCC, and highlight the consequences in the media including the BBC Wales Investigates documentary Dogs on Death Row: Will the Bully Ban Work?

Campaigning for improved breeding legislation has remained a key focus.

In January we highlighted the impact of poor breeding practices, appearing on the BBC One Panorama programme Dogs, Dealers and Organised Crime.

We continued to support the #FlopNotCrop campaign to ban the importation of ear-cropped dogs, joining forces with the RSPCA to launch a campaign focussed on behaviour change. As a member of the Animal Welfare Network for Wales Management Committee, we also regularly met with Welsh Government officials, using our front-line experience to bring key animal welfare issues and challenges to life.

It was another proud moment when our 35,000-strong petition to ban greyhound racing in Wales was debated in the Senedd in March and the Minister for Rural Affairs committed to a consultation, which was then launched earlier this month.

We were also pleased to join the #UnboundTheGreyhound campaign in Scotland, attending meetings at the Scottish Parliament and speaking at the Greyhounds Around the Globe Conference in Edinburgh. We also presented at the ADCH Annual Conference and Dogs Trust Worldwide Conference in Cyprus on our advocacy work and encouraging other animal welfare organisations to use their voice.    

Vanessa Waddon was a guest speaker at the conference

As we look forward towards next year, it’s easy to focus on the negatives.

Without doubt, it will be another incredibly difficult year. The XL Bully ban in particular will become a grim reality.

Demand for our services will continue to rise. Income generation and meeting rising costs will remain a challenge. However, our new Strategic Plan sets out our forward work plan and we are excited to launch a number of new initiatives in 2024.

Thanks again to generous funding from the National Lottery, we will be launching a new community programme which will focus on keeping pets and owners together, as well as supporting wider responsible dog ownership in the community.

We’re incredibly grateful to Battersea for funding new posts to strengthen our welfare team, in particular our adoption and fostering team which will enable us to help more dogs, as well as exciting plans to support other rescues and animal welfare professionals with training.  

We hope to develop plans and apply for funding to build our own veterinary suite onsite – our vet fees are well over £300k this year so this will make a huge difference, as well as supporting our community work.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has helped us achieve so much in 2023 – our supporters, staff, volunteers, rescue partners and funders. A special thank you also to our Board of Trustees, whom we have worked closely with to develop our plans and who share our vision of a future where all dogs are treated with care, kindness, and respect.

We’re excited to embark on the next stage of our journey in 2024, helping as many pets and people as we can on the way.

We can only do that thanks to the kindness and generosity of our supporters. If you would like to join us on our journey, please consider making a monthly gift here:    

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