A Brief History
There are not many people who can claim to have saved over 34,000 animals, but Liz and Colin Stewart, with the help of a team of the volunteers, certainly can do so. In the 30 years of running a rescue centre they have managed to home a wide range of animals and birds, giving each one a bright new future.
The story started back in 1980 when, calling themselves Dorset Animal Rescue, Liz and Colin would be sent photos of dogs in Liverpool that were due to be euthanized. They then pleaded with friends and contacts to offer these dogs a home and the long weekly trip was undertaken to collect them. Over 5,000 dogs were homed.
News travelled and before too long they were also doing weekly trips drives with teams of volunteers, to Wales to rescue the ever increasing numbers of animals which, after only a week in the dog pound, would be euthanized. Each week they travelled all over Wales collecting the dogs and with numbers increasing, they invested in a transit van and up to 45 dogs a week would be bought back to Dorset for re-homing.
The rescue continued to grow with other animals and birds joining the family. However it was not just re-homing that the Stewarts spent their time doing. They both fearlessly campaigned for animal rights and many a march or picket line saw them adding their support. When, in 1997 they found out that 50 beagles, bred by a company supplying dogs for vivisection, were due to be sent abroad, they borrowed £15,000 to save them. If this wasn't enough, they then raised a further £37,000 to save an additional 127 dogs. This campaign attracted a lot of publicity, helped by the final £8,000 paid by the Daily Mirror when Liz sold them the story.
For the next three years their attention turned to saving battery hens and they raised enough money to buy 15,500 hens from the farmers. All the hens were then found homes. In 1999 they moved the rescue to its present location and the Dorset Animal Rescue became - Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue.
Sam Roberts joined the team, in 2000, to take over the care & rehoming of the rescued cats and in 2002 it was New Forest ponies they were saving. Every animal, large or small, is worth saving.
Two years later saw Liz heading to Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami, to rescue a number of dogs. A year later she started fund raising to help set up Animal SOS Sri Lanka, so that sick and injured animals could be taken off the streets and given a home in a wonderful four acre purpose built rescue.
All this work could not go unrewarded and in 2007 Liz was invited to the House of Lords to receive the award for International Animal Rescuer of the Year. There could not have been a more deserving recipient.
Which brings us to now. The rescue is, as always, overflowing with dogs, cats, ponies, rabbits and other animals. Each day brings a new arrival and the veterinary fee and food bills keep mounting. All volunteers are unpaid and do what they can when not doing their day jobs. We, like so many rescues across the country, have been affected by the recession and donations have been greatly reduced. This is the reason why in 2011 PawFest Music Festival was started.
And so the story continues.......