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I suppose most of us, when thinking in terms of animal rescue organisations, tend to assume that sporting breeds, such as Labradors, springer spaniels and golden retrievers, seldom need to be rescued or rehomed, yet such is not the case. Broken homes, divorces, illness or the sudden uncomfortable realisation that the erstwhile fluffy and adorable little Andrex bundle is now a large animal that requires exercising and at least some basic training, can lead, all too often, to the urgent need for a new home and owner.

The Labrador Rescue Trust was originally established in 1988 by a group of Labrador enthusiasts who realised that, as the popularity of the breed escalated, so too did the fall-out of dogs that needed to be rehomed. The organisation, initially known as Labrador Rescue (South West), was granted charitable status in February 1993, and though based in the West Country, it has been granted national status by the Charity Commission, so that, if required, any Labrador in need, nationwide, can be assisted.

Today, more than 100 helpers cover the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Gloucestershire, as well as parts of Bristol, Bath, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean. Helpers are organised into five teams by area, each team having an area co-ordinator.

Bryan and Gloria Jones, who live in Poole, Dorset, are co-ordinators for Dorset, south-west Hampshire, south Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. Gloria told me that one can begin to appreciate the scale of the problem by the fact that, since 1988, some 6,332 Labradors have been rehomed, and that this year the trust has already dealt with more than 600 Labradors.

The Jones have 20 helpers (all unpaid volunteers) who will visit the owners of the dog in question to assess the situation and submit a report to Gloria. From these reports it is possible to match dogs to suitable new homes and then put the appropriate helpers in touch with each other to discuss the possible match.

If the helpers decide that the dog and home are compatible, then the rehoming takes place. Potential owners applying for a rescued Labrador must undergo a stringent inspection and a settling-in period is essential for the newly rehomed dog. A home check is arranged and, as Gloria explained, there are certain situations that preclude rehoming. ?We won?t rehome,? she told me, ?if a dog is likely to be left on its own for more than four hours, and flats are not acceptable, while we also like to ensure that a garden is secure.

We?re very careful about homes with young children and won?t rehome a dog in one unless it has lived with children before.? A great deal of thought and work goes into rehoming a dog and it?s hoped that, once established in a new home, it will stay there for the remainder of its life. In some cases, as Bryan explained, a dog may have lived in two or three homes before it is rescued.

Potential owners of rescued Labradors are asked to consider giving a home to an older dog or, perhaps, one that has a slight medical problem. Some dogs inevitably have behavioural problems and may present a challenge to the right home and owner, but back-up and advice is always available from the trust?s helpers.

Once a rescued Labrador has been allotted to a new home, a helper will visit the new owners within 48 hours to make sure the dog has settled in and that all is well. There will then be a further check after two or three weeks, and again after six months. When taking over a new dog, the new owners sign a Bailment Agreement, a new form, replacing the old adoption form and, in addition, a change of ownership must also be signed when ownership of a dog is relinquished.

The Bailment Agreement notes that the dog will always belong to the trust who, if they believe that the dog is not being looked after properly, can take it back. Also, if for any reason the new owners feel that they cannot keep the Labrador, they are bound to return it to the trust.

All this work inevitably costs money. Telephone bills, petrol, veterinary fees and kennelling inflict a substantial financial demand on the trust, one which can only be met by donations from the public, backed up by fund-raising events. In addition, a new owner is asked to make a donation to the Labrador Rescue Trust and the person giving up the dog is expected to make a donation of £25. Every penny of this money goes towards the rehoming of Labradors.

Do Labradors trained for the shooting field ever have to be rehomed? Though the majority of requests for these dogs are as family pets, occasionally a trained Labrador is in need of a new home and preferably one where its working abilities are used.

For details, visit www.labrador-rescue.com or tel (07791) 519084.