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(Updated 30/8/01)

Saving dogs - business as usual
-the NCDL annual report 2000 reviewed by Nick Mays

OF ALL the mainstream animal charities concerned with dogs, the National Canine Defence League deserves its reputation as the very best, with its proudly justifiable boast that "We Never Put A Healthy Dog To Sleep." This is fast becoming a strap line as important as the famous "A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas", devised by Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin.

The workings of the NCDL, statistics relating to dogs in its care and projects it has undertaken during the past year are all contained in the charity's Annual Report 2001, covering the year 2000.

The charity's President, the Duke of Wellington kicks off proceedings, saying: "Saving dogs form the threat of unnecessary destruction means putting in place practical measures which tackle the root cause of stray and unwanted dogs. That's why I believe our 'Give A Dog A Life' campaign... marks a crucial development in our team efforts." This theme is taken up by NCDL Chairman Phillip Prain, who points out the importance of good partnerships between the charity and other organisations. "We are committed to bringing together individuals, local authorities and other organisations that care deeply about our work. Our partnerships are built around people who love dogs. People like writer and patron Auberon Waugh, who sadly died during this review year, and Lady Dunn who stands down after 23 years as a trustee."

The NCDL's sheer, on-the-ground effectiveness is praised by Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin, who says: "To see the eyes of a rescue dog light up at the prospect of a happy home - that's what makes all our rehoming work worthwhile. The fact that we found just such a home for 9.6 per cent more dogs in 2000 than in 1999 is all the more gratifying when you consider that our Rehoming Centres at Snetterton, Ballymena and Canterbury were closed for improvements for much of the year."

The report devotes a section to each of the NCDL's main areas of operation during 2000, recording the ongoing successes. During 2000 the charity took in 11,620 dogs - a three per cent increase on 1999s figure. Homes were found for 8,406 dogs, which, as Clarissa Baldwin points out in her address, was a 9.6 per cent increase on the previous year.

The Rehoming Centre at Salisbury, formerly the Protection of Animal Life Society (PALS) sanctuary was taken on by the NCDL and becomes the charity's 16th Rehoming Centre in the growing nationwide network. Meanwhile, the charity announced that it is looking for a new site to replace NCDL Dumfries for when their lease runs out in 2003.

Meanwhile, extensive rebuilding at Ballymena, Canterbury and Snetterton centres during 2000 means that the charity will be able to offer dogs better facilities and visitors a more conducive setting to view their new pet.

Part of the NCDL's plans to give rescued dogs a second chance at happiness often means the need to rehabilitate them. To this end, the newly refurbished Snetterton Centre includes a behavioural suite to help the dogs find a better start in life.

The NCDL's Foster Scheme for older, or less fit dogs helps at a very practical level by assisting their new owners with the extra veterinary fees which are part and parcel of taking on such a dog. In 2000, as many as 1,350 dogs reside in foster homes around the UK.

The External Rehoming Scheme was launched during 2000. Dogs whose owners are unable to keep them (due to illness or divorce, etc) are matched with prospective new owners while still in their existing homes, via a directory at the NCDL's centres.

Dogs In NCDL Care - Statistics
Dogs Rehomed:
1999: 7,688
2000: 8,406
Dogs reunited with original owner:
1999: 1,685
2000: 1,346
Dogs in NCDL care at year's end:
1999: 1,686
2000: 1,634
Dogs passed away or put to sleep (for health reasons):
1999: 213
2000: 234

Working together for dogs

The NCDL pays tribute to its many business partners who help at very practical level towards helping the charity carry out its work. Andrex and Ralston Purina both carried on-pack promotion on their products for the NCDL during 2000. Friskies dog food ran their Golden Bonio Awards to find the No.1 rescue dog and also assisted in promoting rescue dogs as pets. The financial sector, too, played an important role, with the Bank of Scotland's credit card NCDL donation system and PetPlan's special insurance schemes.

The Disney Corporation and NTL sponsored 3,000 billboards nationwide, bearing the message that dogs are not toys - they are for life. (This coincided with the release of Disney's movie '102 Dalmatians') Practical Steps To Save Dogs

The NCDL launched its 'Give A Dog A Life' campaign to make a practical difference to the welfare of dogs in the future by tackling problems relating to dogs today. After a successful pilot scheme in the North East, the programme was extended to the North West, South Wales and Northern Ireland. In each region, the objective was the same - to stop dogs being abandoned and destroyed.

In 2000, through the Give A Dog A Life programme, the charity microchipped and neutered several thousand dogs, potentially saving thousands of lives. The pilot scheme in the North East continued its excellent work, microchipping 6,259 and neutering 6,402 additional dogs. The other regions, which joined later in the year also made impressive inroads into the problem, together microchipping 3,815 and neutering 5,432 dogs.

The scheme cost 2.4 million during 2000, but it was obviously money well spent.

Praise for the scheme and the statistics to prove its success comes in a glowing tribute from Paul Robertson, Principal Environmental Health Officer at Middlesbrough Council. Mr Robertson pointed out that after the first year of the NCDL's Give A Dog A Life campaign in the North-East, the council saw a dramatic 40 per cent drop in the number of strays.

"We kept a record of dogs picked up and chipped, and only in very exceptional circumstances did they stray again. But the real bottom line is that we managed to reduce destruction (of stray dogs) by a magnificent 48 per cent.

"The fact is, we couldn't do it without the NCDL's local microchipping and neutering events. People listen to them, not to us!"

Spreading the word

The NCDL offers free, expert advice to dog owners on all aspects of canine care, which helps to reduce the number of unwanted and 'problem' dogs at a practical level. The charity's ever-increasing range of fact sheets and training booklets now includes 'A Friend For Life', a practical guide to '"doing the right thing by your dog." Together with the charity's popular website and lively supporters' magazine WAG!, this wealth of knowledge has made the NCDL the "natural point of contact on all dog-related issues." More shared initiatives with good results include the Caravan Club to help dog owners to behave responsibly with their dogs on caravan sites, while the Royal College of Midwives works with the NCDL to promote the safest possible interaction between dogs and babies.

The NCDL also played a key role with their annual Poop Scoop Week tie-in with over 150 local authorities. Intended to highlight the serious nuisance of dog-fouling, the charity's good-humoured initiative is set to become an annual event.
Enquiries Answered by NCDL During 2000
Dog Training and Behaviour
Enquiries: 11,000
Rehoming Information Hotline: 12,000
Give A Dog A Life Campaign Hotline: 3,600
Rehoming Centre Enquiries: 93,000
General and Head Office Enquiries: 26,000

Incomings and Outgoings

Of course, caring for dogs does not come cheap. While the NCDL acknowledge that 1999 was a record year for income, thanks to one exceptional multi-million pound legacy, 2000 was also another success story in terms of donations, up by 6.1 m to 16.9 m - a rise of more than 57 per cent and a great tribute to the charity's fundraisers. During 2000, payments other than for investment activities rose by 3.8m to 17.3 m. mainly as the result of increased spending on the Give A Dog A Life campaign and the extended Rehoming Centre programme. However, the charity does not intend to rest on its laurels. With plans to extend the Give A Dog A Life campaign to reduce the number of strays through microchipping and neutering, by extending the rehoming capability to find many more dogs new, loving homes and by carrying the message for effectively to dog lovers of all ages, the NCDL aims to build a safer long-term future for dogs. The projected price tag for this extended work is not for the faint-hearted - the charity needs to raise a staggering 54m by the end of 2003. The fact is, one feels that the NCDL will achieve this, as they have already achieved so much in real, practical terms for the benefit of dogs everywhere.

Receipts 2000:
Donations: 8.5 m
Legacies: 7.3m
Rehoming Centre Income: 0.7m
Investment Activities: 0.4m
Total Income: 16.9m

Payments 2000:
Rehoming Centre
Expenditure: 8.6m
Give a Dog a Life Campaign: 2.4m
Information and Education: 1.5m
Fundraising: 4.1m
Legacy Promotion: 0.2m
Management and Administration: 0.5m
Total: 17.3m
NCDL Website: