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Coco Markus Kennels
opened by Duke of Gloucester

Photo by Jane Waller
The Duke and the President

On Tuesday 29th April His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester opened the brand new state of the art kennels at the Kings Bush centre, Wood Green, Godmanchester.

This superb new kennel block has been named after Mrs Coco Markus - a devoted supporter of the shelters. Mrs Coco Markus bequeathed a massive £1.3 million after her death to be used to benefit the Godmanchester shelter.

The Charitable trust advisors, with vets, architects and animal specialists got together and decided that, as the dogs that come into the care of Wood Green had a huge variation of problems, something should be done to provide the best possible programme of care for their transition into new homes. So this new kennel block was designed and built with just that in mind.

The Coco Markus kennels began to form in May 2001, and was completed in late 2002, with His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, opening it officially.

The 59-year-old Duke, a cousin to the Queen, has a long standing love of dogs, being a staunch supporter of Australian Terriers, and his present breed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The Duke was shown around the new spacious and airy reception area with the three new interview rooms, where prospective owners can be asked questions regarding owning a dog and where the dog can wander freely around the room, he was led on past the first of the kennel blocks, to the assessment area where the Wood green staff can carefully assess the incoming dogs for behavioural problems, it was here that a young Cavalier King Charles dog demonstrated part of the usual routine the staff undertake.

As the Duke walked around the Coco Markus kennels, he was greatly impressed with the project, where the plans have incorporated the latest ideas in animal accommodation as well as some completely original concepts, showing that the whole emphasis is the well being of the dogs.

Rather than have purely internal rooms, the kennels have been designed essentially as "Sheltered external spaces" with heated sleeping areas. Each kennel will house two dogs.

Nigel Mason, Head of animal welfare at Wood Green says he believes: “The behavioural implications of housing dogs in compatible pairs will significantly improve quality of life during their stay at the shelter."

The complex is designed for seventy four dogs in total.


The kennels have really good size ‘spaces’, some with painted murals on the walls and some with doggie pictures, there are stimulating toys and luxury beds. All believed to help with their well being.

The Coco Markus kennels also have a heated area as stated earlier, with an increased air flow system designed to reduce the possibility of common airborne diseases such as Kennel cough, they also benefit from an increased ultra violet lighting system in the roof areas this helps to evaporate the standing water and thus reduce the micro-climate normally associated with dog kennels. Also they have purpose built "flaps" allowing the dogs access at all times to both the internal and external areas, giving dogs a real free choice.

Wood Green shelters offer a really interesting education programme available to schools, by either visiting the schools, or inviting them to the centre, On the day over 120 primary school children from St Anne's Primary school of Godmanchester were present to welcome the Duke and to have a training session given by Jo Goodall, the talk in process was about how to approach strange dogs correctly, the children then had the opportunity to stoke the three willing dogs. A four year old white German Shepherd called Lara handled by Jo, A ten year old Australian Shepherd called Wizard handled by Emma Pannell, and Jack, a Patterdale cross, owned and handled by Susie Thompson who has worked at the centre for thirteen years.

A short while later the children joined the Duke, kennel staff, volunteers and trainers, for the unveiling of the two plaques placed either side of the entrance to the Coco Markus kennels, they then joined in with a final photo shoot complete with a Beautiful black Greyhound who had moments earlier christened the stunning flower urns. The staff duly took one step forward covering the offending trickle.

Wood Green shelters opened its first kennels in 1924 in Wood Green, north London, they have two further shelters one in Heydon, Nr, Royston Herts, and the Kings bush centre at Godmanchester, this is the second visit made by a member of the Royal family, the first being at the opening of the Godmanchester Centre in 1987 when The Princess Royal visited.

It costs approximately £10,000 per day to run the three shelters and does not receive government funding, and is not eligible for Lottery funding, so is totally reliant on fund raising to continue to take in over 6,000 animals per year. So donations like that made by Mrs Coco Markus are vital to the continuing success of the shelters.

I was told that now, no dogs are put to sleep, except for really extreme reasons and this would only be the final resort, the dogs are given the best possible care and leave the shelters microchipped, fully vaccinated, and neutered. There is also an impressive back up support system freely available.

To make donations or visit the centre, and to enquire about the many events such as dog shows in the arena. Please contact the centre directly for further details.