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The Last Chance Saloon:
The Doris Banham Sanctuary

YOU know that council dog pounds only have to keep stray and unwanted dogs for 7 or 8 days and then can legally destroy them?

If these dogs are not claimed, re-homed or moved to another rescue within this time they are, literally, on a death row sentence. Just one week after they have been ‘saved’ their life is again at risk… and these are not only those dogs that are ill, elderly or difficult to home. This is all dogs, pretty puppies, pedigrees and dogs who are handsome, fit and in the prime of life.

Who is there to help these dogs when the clock is ticking? The Doris Banham Sanctuary, that’s who.

This very special charity was set up by Trudie James, and named in memory of her late mother, in 2002 with the specific remit of saving those dogs that found themselves in the pound and due to be euthanised. Working all over the UK but focussing on the North of the country, where need is greatest, this small but dedicated charity are able to give a chance of life to dogs who would otherwise have no future.

Trudie is passionate about the cause and has totally devoted her life to these dogs. As the charity has grown Trudie has taken on the role of central co-ordinator. She liaises with the pounds and rescue groups all over the UK to find spaces for those animals whose time is nearly up.

In an ideal world Trudie and her team would be able to find spaces in rescue for all those in need, but in reality they have also had to develop a ‘Plan B’. This involves a number of kennels around the country where dogs can be boarded until a space is found at one of the rescue or re-homing centres for them.

These boarding kennels need to be financed and this is a constant source of worry to Trudie. As she told me ‘It is stressful enough having to hear of dogs about to be destroyed every day, without having to worry constantly about the financial side of helping these needy dogs.’ Currently there are 80 dogs in boarding, and in 2007 over 2300 dogs were saved, through the work of the charity, which otherwise would now be dead.

An appeal for sponsorship of kennels is currently being made. By paying for one kennel for a year an individual, or business, could provide the charity with the security of knowing a place is available, in that half way house between pound and rescue, when it is most needed. Sponsored kennels display a plaque to say thank you to their sponsor.

Maybe you would like to remember a special companion (canine or human) who is no longer around by sponsoring a kennel in their name? One kennel could make the difference between life and death for hundreds of dogs over a year, or maybe give that dog that needs more time and input the space and opportunity needed to make them ready for re-homing.

As well as finding places for the dogs to go to the group also pay vet bills, provide transport from the pound to the rescue centre and run a website with details of dogs looking for homes, and stories of those they have helped before.

By working with breed rescues, national organisations and smaller rescues in this way The Doris Banham Sanctuary also enables these other groups to use their hard won funds to help the dogs, rather than diverting them to extra administration and transport costs. Vet bills are paid not only for the animals in the group’s care, but also for those who are still in the pound. Alongside this blankets, disinfectant, non-prescription medication and food is also provided for dogs still in pounds.

100% of all money raised is spent on the dogs. The group does not have large reserves of cash and Trudie told me that the money is spent as soon as it comes in, as the need of these dogs is so great.

Trudie has written a very moving poem, from the point of view of one of the pound dogs. It is reprinted here, with her permission, in the hope of raising awareness of the need to help and support these often forgotten animals.

* If you would like to make a donation to The Doris Banham Sanctuary, or have some time to spare and could join the small group of volunteers, please visit or contact Trudie James on 0208 363 9634 or Chris Whippey on 07971578963. Registered Charity No 1103372.

Sheena Stratton