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Stray Aid was founded in 2006 by John and Sue Bielby, with the main aim of helping local councils reduce the number of stray dogs being destroyed. John was working as a self-employed plumbing and heating engineer at the time, and Sue was a small animal veterinary surgeon.
Sue qualified as a vet in 1983 because she wanted to help sick and injured animals. She was aware that from time to time a “stray dog” had to be destroyed, but had absolutely no idea the extent of the problem in her area. In 2005, in her capacity as a veterinary surgeon, it came to her attention that literally hundreds of stray dogs were being destroyed in County Durham every year, regardless of age or state of health.
Following a lot of heart-searching, John and Sue decided to try and see if they could influence the dreadful situation. When they were told repeatedly that it was none of their business and there was nothing they could do about it, they decided they could not just sit back and do nothing, they had to take action.
John and Sue spoke to friends and family, who were very supportive of their desire to help. They managed to get enough money together to rent 10 kennels, for 6 months, and paid up front. They negotiated with 2 local dog pounds to receive 2 dogs a week that were due to be destroyed. Previously, if a dog was not collected by its owner during the statutory 7 days, or a new owner could not be found within that time, a stray dog was put to sleep to make room for the new dogs coming in.
A small veterinary clinic was rented on Langley Moor High Street, with the first Stray Aid rescue kennels being rented at the former Blue Acres Boarding Kennels site at Coxhoe from Mr Gordon Snowdon, without whose generous help and support the charity would not have been able to have rescued its first dog.
The stray dogs were checked over at Sue’s veterinary practice, then vaccinated, neutered, microchipped and treated for fleas and worms. These dogs were all successfully rehomed, with the exception of 2 dogs who had a very poor quality of life, and the kindest thing for those dogs was, sadly, to put them to sleep.
John and Sue found dog rescue very rewarding, and support for their work was growing. They had to make a big decision, did they leave it there, in the certain knowledge that many healthy, rehomable dogs would be destroyed? Or did they keep doing what they were doing knowing that if there were 10 dogs in the kennels, the 11th dog would certainly be destroyed? So, after much discussion and encouragement from friends and family, they made the massive decision to tender for a council contract – and won!
Gradually more and more stray dogs were being brought to the kennels, and Stray Aid had no alternative but to keep expanding – there was no turning back! John gave up his plumbing job and Sue moved her veterinary surgery to the rescue centre so the dogs did not need to be moved around for surgical procedures, and could receive immediate veterinary care when they needed it.
Stray Aid has evolved by necessity, and has grown from taking in 2 dogs a week to over 1,200 dogs a year. From this very modest start, the charity continued to rent premises at Coxhoe until 2015, when it intends to buy the kennel site and start developing its new rescue centre.
John and Sue’s passion was preventing the euthanasia of healthy strays. In September 2006 we were contacted by a country pub. A black and white cat that they had called Frank, had moved in a couple of years previously. He was friendly and healthy, but unfortunately Council Environmental Health Officers decided that either he had to be “removed” or they would have to close the pub. As all the local cat rescues were full, this put Frank at risk of death, so we decided to see if we could find a rescue space for him in the quarantine area of the on-site boarding cattery. He was a real sweetheart, and he was easily rehomed. Subsequently various other cats were brought to us, all in danger of being put to sleep, which we managed to find new homes for. At that time, our web designer was creating our logo. He photographed his own dog and his own cat, and the logo was born!
For a couple of years the charity lost its rescue cattery. Thankfully as part of our recent site purchase the charity has a rescue catery again. We very often find that cats taken in as strays have loving owners frantically looking for them, so for the time being, we are concentrating our resources on unwanted cats, in the hope that this will prevent them from becoming strays.
Stray Aid is an animal welfare-based organisation whose primary aim is to stop rehomeable stray dogs and cats from being put down. We increase public awareness to the plight of unwanted animals, providing information on what to do if you lose or find a dog or cat, who to contact and how to get help. We are creating a network to facilitate the exchange of dogs around the country. We provide and maintain a safe and secure environment for our strays until such time as our dogs can be rehomed. In addition, Stray Aid subsidises a veterinary surgeon to provide necessary veterinary treatment for unowned animals.
We need your help. Please Support Us. This is a very exciting time for the charity. We are raising funds to purchase and redevelop the original boarding kennels into the new Stray Aid Animal Welfare Centre. This will complement our existing facilities, allowing us to expand and modernise the Stray Aid rescue shelter.